By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
In an attempt to further solidify their starting pitching depth, the Toronto Blue Jays struck a minor-league deal with veteran right-hander Mat Latos on Thursday.
Latos, 29, is a product of 194 major league appearances dating back to his rookie campaign and has pitched to an ERA of 3.60 across 1,138 1/3 innings of work since breaking in as a 21-year-old in 2009. For his career, 6-foot-6 hurler boasts a respectable K/9 of 7.9 and an overall WHIP of 1.202.
Selected by the San Diego Padres in the 11th round of 2006’s June amateur draft, the native of Alexandria, Va. experienced his strongest season and finished eighth in National League Cy Young voting after posting an ERA of 2.92 in 2010. He followed up his impressive sophomore showing by going 42–30 with 631 punch-outs and a FIP of 3.42 over a stretch of four strong years split between the Padres and the Cincinnati Reds.
Sent to the Miami Marlins in exchange for former Blue Jays prospect Anthony DeSclafini and Chad Wallach in advance of the 2015 season, Latos has failed to replicate the kind of success he experienced over the early stages of his MLB career. Since the trade, he’s recorded an 11–13 record while amassing only 186 1/3 innings and appearing with a total of four separate MLB clubs.
Knee issues have plagued Latos’ career since landing in Miami, and have likely led to a four MPH drop in overall fastball velocity dating back to his first appearance with the Marlins.
Having most recently appeared with the Washington Nationals, Latos went 7–3 while recording a WHIP of 1.459 over 70 innings pitched last season. Although inflated, those numbers include a blistering run with the Chicago White Sox that saw the journeyman allow only two earned runs and post a ground ball percentage of 45.2 over his first four starts in Chicago.
Having made a total of eight relief appearances throughout his career -seven of which came in 2016- Latos could compete for a spot in the Blue Jays bullpen this spring, although it’s likely that he opens the 2017 season as a depth option in triple-A.
Should he make the team out of spring training, the deal will be worth $1.5M with another $500K available in performance-based incentives. Sources indicate that the pact also comes with a pair of opt outs, one that can kick in at the end of grapefruit league play and another that can be exercised during the regular season.
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By Andrew Hendriks