Mat Latos: Significant Gap with team on Arbitration Figure
By Ehsan Kassim
Trading for a pitcher a year away from free agency and then not being able to come to terms on an arbitration deal seems to not be a good sign for a ballclub in their hopes of retaining that player longterm.
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This is the scenario that’s unfolding in front of the Marlins, as they remained $1 million apart on the potential salary that newly acquired Mat Latos will get in 2015.
The numbers both the team and Latos filed at are surprising, as Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projected Latos to earn just $8.4MM this coming season
On the last day of the Winter Meetings, the Marlins sent prospects Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach to the Cincinnati Reds to acquire Mat Latos. The trade quenched the Marlins quest to add a top of the rotation arm to their rotation.
In 2014, Latos pitched to a 3.25 ERA, a 3.65 FIP over 102 1/3 innings. He struck out 6.5 and walked 2.3 batters per nine. He dealt with injuries most of the season and lost 2 miles per hour on his fastball velocity.
Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs wrote an article on the chances of Latos’ fastball velocity returning and he concludes he doesn’t like the chances of that happening.
"The future doesn’t look bright for Latos. The “good” news is his velocity will likely not decline any further in 2015, but neither will it go up. Looking at the 97 pitchers who lost between 1.0 and 1.4 mph, 11% gained 1 or more mile per hour after the loss. On the other hand, 16% lost an additional 1 mph or more.Don’t ever assume a pitcher will regain lost velocity after experiencing significant decline. The best case estimate is the pitcher will stay constant. If Mat Latos see’s a large bump up, great, but he will be the exception instead of the rule."
The decline in fastball velocity led to Latos losing his ability to strike hitters out, as he went from near 8.0 K/9 in both 2012 and 2013 to 6.5 K/9 in 2014. Steamers projections are not optimistic in Latos returning to form, as they project Latos to post a 4.12 ERA and a 4.04 ERA in 182 innings in 2015.
With all of that, I’d expect the arbitrator to rule in the Marlins favor, guaranteeing Latos a $9.4 million salary. It’s still a one million dollar upgrade of what we have expected for Latos all off-season, but still a bargain for an ace caliber pitcher, if he can return to his 2013 form.
Even at the $9.4 million salary, the Marlins would be able to cover his entire salary with the money the Dodgers sent to Miami with Dan Haren, if they are able to find a taker for Haren. They are said to be “wrestling” over trading the right hander.