On February 16th, the Blue Jays agreed to a 1 year, MiLb deal with veteran pitcher Mat Latos, which will amount to 1.5 million if he makes the MLB roster.
The Blue Jays have slowly but surely built their bullpen depth this offseason, signing several veteran pitchers after the calendar turned to 2017. Of the more recent additions, the Blue Jays brought in enigmatic pitcher, Mat Latos on a MiLB deal.
Latos has bounced around a lot over the last 8 seasons, having been a part of 8 different organizations, and 5 in the last 2 years alone. He spent the 2016 season split between the White Sox and Nationals, and the 2015 with the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins. It’s been a rough few seasons for the Virginia native.
Part of the problem for the big right-hander has been an inability to stay healthy. Latos has only managed to appear in 39 games with those 5 teams, with just 17 appearances in 2016, including 12 starts. The results weren’t very encouraging either, as he finished last season with a 5.32 ERA overall.
In addition to struggling on the field, Latos has developed a rocky reputation in certain baseball circles, perhaps contributing to the lack of interest on the market this offseason. Looking back on the 2014 season, Latos was injured in spring training as a member of the Reds, but still managed to have a decent season finishing with a 3.25 ERA in 102.1 innings. Unfortunately, Latos’ velocity was down a bit, and he publicly accused the Reds of “rushing him back” from surgery. When asked about it, then-GM, Walt Jocketty, responded with:
“Consider the source”. Ouch.
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Obviously the two parties didn’t exactly part on the warmest of terms, and Latos has bounced around to 5 different clubs since. That could be largely attributed to his struggles on the mound, but personality clashes wouldn’t help his case either. If he was finishing 8th in Cy Young voting, as he did in 2010, it’s a lot easier to put up with any “attitude issues”.
When asked about it a few days back, Jays’ manager John Gibbons made a more than valid point regarding their newest addition.
“You know what? A lot of times, there’s always two sides to every story”
He also added:
“I’ve had some players I haven’t seen eye to eye with in the past, and it’s just part of it. You’re not going to get along with everybody. But, you know, I don’t anticipate any problems. I’ve heard some good things about him, too”.
Good ol’ Gibby makes some very valid points here. Professional athletes are generally big personalities, and they don’t reach the MLB very often because of a lack of confidence in themselves. Navigating a clubhouse with 20-30 “Alpha-male” personalities is one of the biggest responsibilities of being a manager.
Look no further than the Blue Jays’ own Jose Bautista, who is openly disliked by several other MLB teams.
As much as Bautista has been despised by opposing players, he’s beloved in Toronto by the fans and his teammates. Marcus Stroman made it pretty clear how he felt about Bautista’s return to the club this year.
The bottom line when it comes to Latos? He’s on an MiLB deal, and even if his MLB contract gets activated, the Jays are only looking at an investment of 1.5 million.
If it doesn’t work, the Blue Jays can simply cut bait and chalk it up to another MiLB contract that didn’t work out. Those scenarios play out several times every year, and Latos could very well be worth the risk.
If not, no harm done.