Mat Latos‘ tenure with the Miami Marlins could very well be one and done. A follower asked MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro yesterday if he saw a Latos extension in the cards for the Fish, with Frisaro responding with “doubtful.”
The Marlins being hesitant to extend Mat Latos should come as no surprise, despite the team sending one of their top pitching prospects in Anthony DeSclafani and catcher Chad Wallach to the Cincinnati Reds to acquire his services. Latos is coming off an injury plagued season, one which saw him throw only 102 innings and lose 2 miles per hour on his fastball velocity.
Due to his struggles from a season ago, the Marlins are probably in wait and see mode on what to do with Latos. The team is headed to arbitration with the right hander, with the team’s offering $9.4 million and Latos countering at $10.4 million.
In 2010, with the Padres, Latos experienced his breakout season. That season he pitched 184 2/3 innings, racking up 2.92 ERA and a 3.00 FIP. Latos that season struck 9.21 hitters and walked just 2.44 per nine innings en route to a 4.0 fWAR season.
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He would follow that up with a 3.47 ERA and a 3.16 FIP season in 2011, in 194 1/3 innings of work. His strikeouts dipped to under 9 per nine innings at 8.57 and his walked rate creeped up a bit to 2.87.
That off-season, the Padres traded Latos to the Reds, where he posted a 3.48 ERA and a 3.85 FIP, both being his worst marks since his rookie season, in 209 2/3 innings of work. The drop-off was a bit expected, with Latos moving from the pitcher friendly confines in San Diego to a more hitter friendly park in Cincinnati. His strikeout rate dipped for a third straight season, this time to under 8 per nine innings, at 7.95 per nine.
The 2013 season was a “comeback” season for Latos, as he experienced the best season of his young career. Throwing 210 2/3 innings, Latos posted a career high 4.4 fWAR. His strikeouts went up a tick to 7.99 per nine innings, leading to a 3.16 ERA and a 3.10 FIP.
Last year was a disaster for Latos, pitching just 102 1/3 innings due to elbow surgery to remove bone spurs after the 2013 post-season. He then had knee surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus in February. In early April he was scratched from a start in his rehab process due to a strained flexor mass in his elbow and was shutdown on April 13th.
Latos finally made his first start of the season on June 14th, but was shutdown once again, for the season this time, on September 7th with a bone bruise.
In total, Latos made just 16 starts in 2014, posting a decent 3.25 ERA and a 3.65 FIP when he was healthy. However, his injury woes and drop in fastball velocity led to a career worst 6.51 strikeouts per nine innings.
With the trade to his home in South Florida, Mat Latos will be hoping for a bounce back season, before entering free agency in 2016.
The switch from Great American Ball Park to Marlins Park may not help Latos as one would imagine, as Brett Talley of Fangraphs points out.
"You may be thinking that the change in home ballparks may help Latos, but according to our park factors, Marlins Park is no more pitcher-friendly than Great American Ball Park, at least on a basic level. Great American Ball Park does cede many more home runs than Marlins Park, but Latos hasn’t had a problem with home runs in his last 300+ innings in Cincinnati. Any advantage gained from the switch in ball parks could be offset by a downgrade in the defense behind him. Cincinnati ranked third in defensive efficiency last year while Miami ranked 27th."
Latos realized how important the 2015 season is for his free agency stock. For that reason, he’s unlikely to want to sign an extension at this point, banking on himself having a comeback season and earning a huge pay day this off-season.
The Marlins however want to see a healthy Latos before they commit to him longterm. His loss in velocity and bouts with elbow injury are serious enough for the team to think twice before extending Mat Latos.
For that reason, Joe Frisaro is absolutely right, an extension between Latos and the Marlins is doubtful. On top of that, the teams have yet to come to terms on his salary next season.