Miami Marlins: Trade Idea for Mat Latos to Toronto Blue Jays
The news that broke late last night that the Rockies had sent Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays in return for Jose Reyes and prospects shocked many people, and it seemed to be an almost inexplicable decision for both sides.
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The Blue Jays already have one of the best offenses in baseball and are already a very right-handed heavy matchup. Most people who follow these sorts of things were sure that Toronto would be looking to bolster their pitching, given that they have a 4.07 team ERA, which ranks twelfth in the AL. Their 4.38 ERA among starting pitchers ranks thirteenth in the Junior Circuit.
Adding Tulowtizki to what already is the best offense in the AL probably will help them in the margins, but not help take them over the top. No matter how many more runs Toronto is able to score this doesn’t mean that they will not need some pitching help to make a legitimate run at the playoffs.
This is where the Marlins enter in the form of Mat Latos. There has been a lot of talk surrounding both Latos and Dan Haren as the primary trade pieces that the Marlins could do something interesting with during this July 31 trade deadline.
Latos has pitched very well in the past 30 days. Putting up a 2.08 ERA on a 2.76 FIP. His FIP looks healthy largely because of 23.2% strike out rate, 3.0% walk rate, and a manageable 10.0% HR/FB rate. He is not giving up a lot of fly balls or yielding a lot of hard contact.
Latos has produced groundballs at a 53.6% clip which is the twenty-third best in all of baseball in the past 30 days.
Latos would be a safe bet for Toronto because he has pitched better as the season has gone on, he’s gotten healthier and his velocity has rebounded a bit from its low in Cincinnati last year. Latos is a good pitcher but he still isn’t a premier piece on the level of Cueto, Kazmir, Hamels or Price.
His return would also be hampered by that fact that he isn’t a “controllable” piece, becoming a free agent at the end of year. Some of the intangibles heard about him, which amount to the fact that he isn’t the nicest guy and has “wore out his welcome” in Cincinnati and now reportedly in Miami.
Earlier today, co-editor Ehsan Kassim posted that the Marlins are growing confident that they will deal Latos soon.
Given this and the fact that the Blue Jays already sent both Jeff Hoffman and Miguel Castro Rocky Mountain High, there aren’t many pieces that Marlins could legitimately get in return for a 2 month rental on a third starter.
The two guys I will be focusing on are a big Dominican lefty Jairo LaBourt and a young outfielder in Anthony Alford.
LaBourt is a 21 year-old 6’4” 204 lb big Dominican lefty power pitcher and is the Jays nineteenth best prospect according to MLB.com. In 80 IP so far at High-A in 2015 LaBourt has a 4.59 ERA on a 4.16 FIP. His FIP is so inflated largely in part to a high 12.0% BB rate and a strikeout rate that could be improved on.
Baseball Prospectus, in their scouting report of LaBourt, gave him a 50 grade fastball and 55 grade slider currently and a very marginal 20 grade changeup. With both the fastball and the slider having the chance to improve to 60 grade pitches with time to develop.
Ultimately even if he is just a two-pitch pitcher with both an above average fastball and slider, he could still be a very good high-leverage arm, and not just a traditional LOOGY much like in the shape of Andrew Miller. If that doesn’t pan out he could always be a situational lefty (which is a role that is much more valuable than most fans realize).
He is still young and will have to work on his control issues. hopefully learning how to better throw the changeup as an effective pitch. A third pitch is often the difference between a guy being a starter and a reliever.
If LaBourt can harness his changeup or even learn how to throw another secondary pitch, he could become a legitimate starter.
The other player that the Marlins should target in a possible trade with Toronto is Anthony Alford. Alford is a 21 year-old 6’1” 215 lb outfielder also playing with Dunedin this year was taken in the third round of the 2012 draft out of Petal HS in Mississippi.
Alford was a star quarterback on his high school team, as well as an All-American in baseball. He won both Mr. Football and Mr. Baseball honors in the state of Mississippi in 2012.
Alford besides being drafted by the Blue Jays, chose to attend Ole Miss and was a defensive back for the Rebels.
Last fall Alford quit football to focus completely on baseball.
All of this means that Alford is probably one of the best athletes out there in the minor leagues. A guy that was an All-American in two sports, won both Mr. Football and Mr. Baseball, and was playing defensive back for an SEC school, while also playing minor league baseball equals athletic.
Alford is the Blue Jays fourth best prospect according to MLB.com and his stats make it obvious why.
So far in 2015 at high-A he has slashed .327/.389/.460 with a homer, six doubles and three triples in only 27 games. Previously at low-A Lansing he was slashing .293/.418/.394 with a homer, 14 doubles and a triple.
Alford may not have a lot of raw power but he has a swing that produces extra bases hits and his athleticism and apparent plate discipline having a bunch of years with walk rates well above 10% seem like a good sign for the future.
The Marlins in the situation that they are in need to find as much value as possible for the trades that they will make in the next few days and targeting guys like Labourt and Alford would be a good place to start.
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