According to Travis Sawchik, the Pittsburgh Pirates have an interest in free agent right-handed pitcher Mat Latos. There have been rumors of the Pirates showing interest in many pitchers who fit the same mold as Latos. He has had success in the past, but he’s coming off a down year, so the Pirates would be a perfect team to sign with for one year in an attempt to turn things around and build back up his value.

Latos just turned 28 yesterday and has a 3.51 ERA/3.44 FIP in seven seasons in the majors, spent mostly with the Reds. He played for three different teams in 2015, starting with the Marlins after an off-season trade, before going to the Dodgers and then Angels. He had a 4.95 ERA in 21 starts and three relief appearances, picking up 100 strikeouts in 116.1 innings. From 2010-13, he average over 200 innings per season with the Reds. Latos has a career 1.18 WHIP and has averaged 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings during his career. More on this shortly.

UPDATE 11:44 AM:Β Analysis from Tim Williams…

I’ll just give a quick breakdown of Latos here to say that he fits the mold as a reclamation project. He had a down year in 2015 with a 4.95 ERA, but his 3.69 xFIP indicated he should have been better. At his best, you’ve got a guy with top of the rotation results. He’s not an extreme ground ball pitcher, but gets an average amount.

Instead of going into great detail here, I’m going to focus on the idea of adding pitching after the addition of Jon Niese. I was never under the impression that the Pirates were done adding to their rotation after that one move. In fact, I mentioned a few times yesterday how the addition of another pitcher would set up a deal of someone like Charlie Morton for someone like Mitch Moreland. And I’m only throwing out that example because that’s the one we’ve heard any kind of rumor about. We don’t even have a concrete rumor there, just that the Rangers need back of the rotation pitching and the Pirates like Moreland.

As I wrote earlier this week, the Pirates always have a plan that we’re not privy to. We occasionally get glimpses of the plan via rumors, but even that isn’t clear. In this case, we’ve heard constantly that the Pirates have been looking at starters, from Scott Kazmir, to Justin Masterson, and every reclamation project in between. I don’t think the Pirates would go through all of that just to solve their rotation problemsΒ by adding Niese. That’s nothing against Niese, but the Pirates have been scouting a lot of people, have a strong track record of fixing reclamation projects, and seem to have the interest of every project on the market. To take that, and then make Niese your only pitching addition doesn’t add up, especially when you consider that they continue to add guys.

I think the roster shuffling is only just starting. It wouldn’t surprise me if they signed another starter, then used the new excess to land another need. There’s also the possibility that they have moves in mind that we aren’t even considering right now. At this time last year, no one would have guessed that they would sign Jung-ho Kang later in the off-season.

If Niese is the only pitching addition, then the Pirates are potentially set up for a quiet off-season where they add another first baseman, trade Mark Melancon, add some bench and bullpen help, and go to the season. But based on the continued rumors about pitching, it seems like it will be much more complex than that, which is ultimately why I’m waiting to see how their entire plan plays out, to get the full context of the moves, rather than evaluating them in a vacuum.

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172 COMMENTS

  1. Cubs are building a juggernaut and we have shed Walker, Alvarez, Ramirez, Burnett, Soria, Bastardo, Blanton and Happ. All key men on the roster, at least four appeared in the All-Star game. Melancon on the way out. Kang is just now moving to “weight bearing.” How encouraging. Our additions have been castoffs or reclamation projects. In no way does this team have the potential of last year’s team. I assume the FO is far from done, but as we sit this has the feel of rebuilding year and a team that will miss the playoffs.
    Have at it all ye apologists.

  2. Morton for a Barbie doll and I’d be happy. If they can afford Kazmir then that would be ideal. They need one reliable starter to go with Cole and Liriano and then fit in the pieces

  3. The Cubs sign Lackey and Lackey and trade for Zonrist. The Pirates look for pitchers off the scrap heap and trade NW for Niese. Frank Coonely said when the fans increase the attendance, the team would increase payroll. Basically the only payroll increases have been what players win in arbitration, while getting rid of Neil and Pedro.

  4. Tim,
    I think you had a column similar to this but I would love a comparison on what an average overall 3 4 5 pitcher looks like then compare that to what a 3 4 5 looks like on winning or playoff teams and see how different they are. Think it would be a good barometer of what we should expect at 3 spot if we are gonna compete and see if good/bad neise, latos, etc is realistic.

  5. Like the upside, hate the risk. Fister would be my top target as a reclamation, and I’d still prefer to get someone steady for the middle of the rotation.

  6. Think bucs missed a good opportunity to acquire yunel escobar. Trade cost low. He could’ve provided some insurance with kang s injury and been an upgrade over s rod. Maybe you could have worked storen into talks too.

    • Yeah if they would’ve just traded Dilson Herrera for a legit right field the Pirates would’ve won the Wild Card game in 2013 oh wait. πŸ˜‰

  7. Now John Perrotto writing in his winter league wrap up that Jonathan Broxton is a rp Bucs having interest in.
    Heaven help us.

  8. A player I liked was Yusmeiro Petit. I realize he’s not the hardthrower they prefer in the bullpen, but he would have been a nice changeup for Cameniro and Watson. Also could have made a start or two.

  9. Among all the guys theyve been interested in…one name we havent heard yet. Gallardo? Wonder what he will fetch on the market…

  10. I would be OK with Latos. I would, actually, like to see the Pirates pick up Kazmir AND a reclamation pitcher. That would really give us some starting depth and, if all things worked out (from Searage god himself) then our rotation could actually be improved over last year.

  11. Speaking of trolls : when I was at the WC game against the Cubs Lee Foo shows up with his Hyzdu jersey on then leaves and in the 3rd inning he is wearing a friggin Arrietta jersey and drinking an Old Style! Tell you guys keep an eye out for him he posts under six names.

  12. Re: Latos….I was not a fan of AJ’s when we got him because I had heard some bad things about him.

    But, if Latos can do what AJ did, I am all for it. I can ‘learn to love him’ like I did with AJ.

    Maybe Locke can become Matt’s ‘Robin’, too?

  13. Seems like he was doing just fine with the Marlins last season.

    ERA was up about a point, but FIP, HR/9, BB/9, and K/9 were right in line with career averages. Then he got traded to the Dodgers and fell apart.

    Maybe just an adverse reaction to a mid-season trade? Seen plenty of guys fail to perform under those circumstances. Hopefully he won’t need much more than a tune-up.

    • He’s really tough to figure out.

      Basic metrics really only showed him being bad at stranding runners with the Marlins (64%) resulting in an ERA a full run over FIP, but pitchf/x does show him grooving a higher percentage of pitches so I wouldn’t completely the LOB% as noise. Control may still be good, but he’s never regained his velo and it’s possible missing *in* the zone with lesser stuff is hurting him.

      • True…maybe its all the negative press coming out today after Walker being traded thats rubbed off on me. But I’m just skeptical theyre going to actually going to spend 15/16 mil on a pitcher for multiple years. And thats what its going to take to get him. They can and they should, if its the right pitcher for them, but I question if they will. We’ll see.

      • For the record, I wouldnt be majorly disappointed if they got Latos. If they can fix him, he can be a very effective pitcher. Much better upside than Niese I think, but its far from a sure thing.

  14. Not mentioned in the above analysis is possibly the most important part of a reclamation arm: make up.

    All the talent in the world won’t get Latos back to a quality starter unless he *wants* to listen.

  15. Well, the Astros got one heck of a young closer late last night, getting Giles from the Phillies. They are definitely all in and wanting to win now.
    The price tag was steep, but it does not appear they gave up as much as some originally projected. Valazquez being the top prospect going to Philly

  16. There’s plenty to ponder about Latos.
    He was released. Once a top pitcher, that’s not a good sign.
    He has been outspoken (to put it kindly) in the past.
    How popular is he on the FA circuit. Haven’t heard anything about him being offered.
    He’s looking, probably, for a 1 year deal. MLTR projects $12MM. Is that reasonable? Is an $8 to $10 one year deal with an option or 2 at a higher rate possible? He just turned 28, so if he’s effective why not try to get him for an extra year or two.
    If he’s added, would that increase the likely hood of bidding adieu to Morton?

  17. I would prefer Kazmir, but Latos is still pretty young and was a pretty decent SP for the Reds for 2-3 years. I don’t know what happened to him last year. Is he healthy? If his arm is sound and he hasn’t lost his velocity, I think he would be worth pursuing and considering. Kazmir seems like a more sure thing, and would still be my preference for a #3 of the guys being discussed.
    If Latos can rebound and get back to where he was, he would be a solid #3 – slotting Niese at #4, and hopefully someone not named Morton or Locke at #5.

      • Going by last year Locke was more than fine as your #5. The problem is Morton isn’t great as #4 unless one has conviction he can return to his 2013-14 form. Your 3-5 aren’t great right now no matter you cut it up. I look at as having a 3.5 and 2 4.5s. Not horrible, but certainly not great.

        • If the rotation set up as Cole-Lirano-Latos-Niese-Locke, i think it offers enough of a chance to have a fine #3 that it makes sense. One of Latos/Niese can have a #3 like year, and if one doesnt they still can be a servicable #4. Which allows the young guys to be gravy to whatever we get, and serve as injury depth.

          I dont think “great” comes in the offseason for PGH, since we target guys that tend to not be popular. I think Latos could be as good as Kazmir next year in terms of FIP and xFIP

          • I agree if they sign Latos, but if they don’t sign him and we go into season with Niese, Morton, Locke as our 3 4 5 I don’t like that plan. I don’t like it at all.

            • It’d depend on what role they see Webster in. If he’s sticking at SP, im interested enough to have him at the back end.

              Having said that, he seems prime as a late inning relief convert type as well.

              • No offense but I think that’s putting way too much stock in a low probability event(Webster being ready to be a #4 #5) by the time we break spring training. If Searage can get him to the point he could be trusted in 6th inning by time season starts I would consider that great accomplishment.

                  • Well that is sort of like saying if I had a billion more dollars I’d be a billionaire. His stuff is more than fine to be mid-relief. Hell he has incredible stuff and stuff that might be good enough to be a #2 starter right now. With that same stuff he had a FIP over 10 in the bullpen last year for Dbacks. So without any large improvement in control/command he has zero value as a mid inning reliever.

                    • I think if we cant expect some type of improvement on a guy like him due to Searage, we are being a bit unfair to Ray.

                      He aint true magic, but Ray has been able to make a large number of guys see better control. I dont really doubt his ability to make a guy with that stuff at least mid relief worthy.

                    • We will just have to agree to disagree. I’m a huge Ray fan. I am hopeful, but I’m not ready to stipulate in December it is guaranteed that Webster will be a fine 7th inning arm. And to take it one step more, if for some reason Webster didn’t work out I wouldn’t think “oh Ray wasn’t good enough to fix him”. Not everyone can be fixed, no matter how great the teacher. Hopefully Webster works.

                    • I never guaranteed that, in fact i said if we didnt get much better he’d be mid relief. If he gets only a small dose better, he’s likely just a mid relief arm.

                      Not everyone can be fixed, but this odd amount of “we cant fix everyone” line is tiresome when discussing potential guys for Ray to fix. It makes discussing a potential fix useless when people go “well they cant fit them all”. He cant, but he can fix a ton of guys and generally guys with decent stuff. When we did get Happ “we cant fix them all” was said by many.

                      Give Ray good stuff with control issues, he’ll fix more than he’ll dump by mid season.

                    • “Some” improvement isn’t going to cut it, Luke.

                      You’re wayyyy oversimplifying how wild he’s been.

                      “Some” improvement gets him back to being a Major League bullpen arm. To start, he’s gotta gain more control *plus* add a shred of command. Again, Searage isn’t magic.

                    • “Some improvement gets him back to being a ML bullpen arm”

                      That was kinda my point above. He has back end stuff, and needs some improvement to be a ML mid relief arm. Solid improvement allows him to throw the 7th, assuming that improvement comes after he’s a reliever.

                      Searage isnt magic, but it seems like anytime anyone points out we can fix Player A, you or others say “he aint magic.”

                      He’s not magic, but he’s so good he can take shitty looking players and make them useful. Even guys with worse stuff than Webster, so some level of optimism is warranted due to his record of success. Not a large amount of optimism, but enough to not have Arthur basically make fun of anyone who thinks Ray can fix someone.

    • Kazmir would clearly project to be a better pitcher but when you factor in risk/reward and commitment Latos may be more attractive. I’m guessing 3 year and AT LEAST 50 M for Kazmir where Latos might come 1 year between 7-9?

  18. Latos would fit their target/mold for a 1 year deal. While you can’t believe everything you hear, it seems this guy really has tendency to act like raging douchebag at times and the Pirates for the most part are a very likeable group imo. So let’s hope he is on his best behavior.

    • At very least, on a 1 year deal it minimizes the risk of him being hated so much that it ruins chemistry longterm.

      And winning games tends to help players not act like azzhats.

      • Oh no doubt, people are usually peaches and sunshine when they are winning so hopefully we have another 88+ win year.

        To be honest, just strictly talking baseball and what I guesstimate he will cost on a 1 year deal I like Latos probably more than anyone else we could take 1 year flyer on(Masterson, Cliff Lee I imagine will be very expensive, etc). So he might be a really good add.

        I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge I could never stand the guy. Hopefully I/we get to see the brighter side of Mat, Cat and Dallas’s personalities if he signs with us.

    • AJ didn’t have the best reputation when he arrived either. As outsiders we often don’t know the whole story so I will trust the Pirates to do the due diligence on all aspects of a player before acquiring them.

      • While i agree with that point on waiting before judgement, there are large enough differences between the AJ reputation and the Latos reputation to be worried.

        AJ basically was bad in NY, and the media then got all over his case. He was always an oddball and passionate, but rarely called out his teammates or previous teams without a reason.

        Latos, on the other hand, has oddly called out teammates/clubhouses/teams he left for various reasons. He’s earned his reputation a bit more.

      • Yeah, that was my thought….HATED the thought of AJ Version 1.0, but he surprised me. Version 2.0 lost my respect when he bailed on his word, but he did his job when they signed him last year. Latos has an excellent chance to be a good pitcher for a 1 year run.

  19. I’d be okay with him as a reclamation project as long as we still aren’t relying on him, Niese, Locke, or Morton to be our #3 starter out of the gate.

    I fear that if we sign Latos, that will be the end of our starting pitching search/acquisitions.

      • And with each passing day it seems there are less. I guess I’m just holding out hope for Kazmir, although the longer it goes, the less likely I feel it becomes.

    • How many freaking pitchers do you want? A rotation of Cole, Liriano, (a Searage revived) Latos, (a Searage revived) Niese, and Locke/Morton sounds pretty solid to me until Glasnow is ready to be #5 (seriously, a fifth starter), maybe late season. This timing would be especially fortuitous, considering Locke is solid in the first half and tee ball in the second half. I really want one of the three, in this order. Fister, Latos, Masterson. Any of the above would be excellent #3 starters with Pittsburgh pitching gurus and infield defense.

      • I’m not saying I want more pitchers. I am saying who those pitchers are matters.

        Face it, if you’re okay with wanting to have any of those pitchers slot in as our number 3 praying they work out like Burnett or Happ, good for you. For me, I’d feel more comfortable if they pony up and sign scott kazmir who doesn’t require a searage miracle.

        Not to mention, I’d be fine with not having morton or locke in our rotation or one of them as our number 5 but not both as our 4 and 5.

      • I’d choose Kazmir over Fister or Masterson. Kazmir and Latos would provide #2 upside. Fister and Masterson, at their best, are 3-4’s

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