Aug 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher M. Latos (55) in the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The Colorado Rockies are always looking for pitching help — and often times that means picking guys up off the scrap heap from elsewhere around the league.
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The Colorado Rockies will never — at least in the foreseeable future — attract big name free agent pitchers. It doesn’t appear they have any interest (or the money) in joining the ace sweepstakes every offseason. (That’s not to mention that likely no bona fide ace even wants to pitch in Colorado, money aside.)
That’s why every winter, guys like Kyle Kendrick show up at the Rockies’ doorstep; pitchers who failed elsewhere, or otherwise wore out their welcome, and can be had relatively cheaply as the Rox hope a buy-low reclamation project or two turns out successful.
Sometimes, the Rockies even have success with these reclamation projects; Jorge De La Rosa was one, after all. Nobody expected him to become what he has after several trades and a poor Major League career before he came to Denver.
So when Mat Latos was designated for assignment this week by the Los Angeles Dodgers, it piqued some followers’ interest. (It initially didn’t pique my interest, as you’ll see below, though retroactively I wish I’d now thought of this angle.)
Latos was part of a trade deadline deal from Miami to Los Angeles six weeks ago, and, um, things never really worked out in Chavez Ravine. In six games (five starts) with Los Angeles, he was 0-3 with a 6.66 ERA. He lasted only six innings once, gave up three homers in 24.1 innings as a Dodger, and allowed 31 hits in the same span.
Obviously, those numbers are bad — especially for a team that’s steamrolling to the NL West crown and looking for legitimate third and fourth starters for the playoffs. But what about for a team that’s in the NL West’s basement and is looking for warm bodies come 2016?
I received this series of tweets early Friday morning from one of our readers, Ryan Poe, and as you can see I was none too accepting of the Latos-to-Colorado idea right from the top:
(To be fair, Latos hasn’t been as homer-prone lately as he was pitching in Cincinnati.)
All of a sudden, it clicks! Poe is right! Maybe there’s something there!
First off, hat tip to our readers. Second, I’ll give Poe credit on this one, so that the next good idea he has, I can steal without attribution and claim as my own. (Kidding.)
Third — and most importantly — De La Rosa aside (who is about the absolute best case scenario in a reclamation project, and thus somewhat of an outlier), the Colorado Rockies have a good example of a buy-low pitcher they’ve reclaimed in the rotation right now: Chris Rusin.
The Cubs placed Rusin on waivers almost a year ago today, and on September 27, 2014, he was acquired by the Colorado Rockies for absolutely nothing. Fast forward through Spring Training, a few AAA starts, a big league call up necessitated by injury, a couple complete games (!), and — BAM — Rusin is all of a sudden on the inside track for a rotation gig next season.
Could the same happen to Latos? Absolutely. Sure, Latos could burn out. Or, other teams could get on him, as some have already begun to speculate elsewhere. But Latos may have a better chance to succeed as a reclamation project than Rusin, if only for the fact that Latos has a much better Major League track record.
Up until this season, Rusin’s big league experience consisted of 108 innings of 4.97 ERA pitching over 24 games; surely, not the most impressive resume out there. Latos, though, has actually seen some significant big league success; between 2010 — when he finished eighth in Cy Young voting — and 2014, he went 60-45 with a 3.33 ERA in 153 big league starts.
It was only in 2015, split between Miami and Los Angeles, that he saw his career truly derail. There’s certainly a significantly larger than zero percentage chance that he could regain some of that form in the future, if (hopefully) 2015 was just a one-off to forget and leave in the past.
After making $9.4 million this season, he won’t come super cheap, even despite his struggles. But, a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of Kyle Kendrick’s this year (1 year, $5.5 million) or even slightly higher definitely isn’t too much to pursue.
Hey, look, maybe Latos is truly awful and his time in LA showed everybody he’s done in the big leagues. But for a pitching-starved basement-dwelling team that consistently seems to need 10-15 Major League starters every season, a guy who won’t turn 28 until December and already has 175 pretty damn good big league starts under his belt wouldn’t be the worst investment in the world.