With the top tier shelf of free-agent starting pitchers emptying and price tags sharply rising for what's left, scuffling righty Mat Latos has drawn serious interest from at least five teams as a potential short-term band-aid for their rotations, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
Crasnick reports the Pirates, Royals, Orioles, Brewers and Rays have all contacted the 28-year-old righty's agent Dustin Bledsoe, who he says is likely fielding as many questions about his clients' physical and emotional makeup as his willingness to accept a one-year deal to rebuild his value following an injury-plagued season that saw his professional and interpersonal bonafides take a beating with three teams.
Latos earned $9.4 million for a checkered season that included 16 starts for the Marlins before they dealt him to the Dodgers, where he made five more before getting cut; ending with two brief relief appearances for the Angels that saw him get shelled over a few innings.
One knowledgeable estimate has placed his one-year value for 2016 at about $12 million. No draft pick compensation encumbers him, which is a plus not associated with higher-end starters still on the market like Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy and Wei-Yin Chen; adding to his appeal as a lower-cost high-reward plug-and-play option for clubs not in on top free-agent Scott Kazmir. And with 200 starts and a career 8.1 K/9 rate over seven seasons under his belt, it's easy to see why. But lower cost doesn't necessarily mean lower risk.
Thought to be on his way to a brilliant future and lucrative free-agent payday only two short seasons ago, his mound time and effectiveness have been derailed by a succession of injuries and surgeries on his elbow and knee since 2013. Adding to his baggage along the way have been some prickly public conflicts with coaches, managers and teammates, culminating in a rocky 2014 contract year in which he was bounced from three teams with his clubhouse reputation and some of his primary stats badly dented; chiefly his 4.95 ERA and 1.31 WHIP both of which represented career highs. But his 3.72 FIP and 3.69 xFIP were respectable, his 7.7 K/9 rate wasn't too far off his career mean, and his 116.1 IP registered a slight uptick from his 2014 total of 102 IP.
And then, of course, there's the mouth-watering four-season 2010-2013 stretch for GMs to dream on when he was the ace for the Padres and then the Reds, throwing to a 3.27 ERA and ringing up 185-plus strikeouts while burning up 199-plus innings annually. Latos is the definition of a high-risk, potential high-reward project, with a capital H.