Last night, tweets were coming out sharing the possibility of the Toronto Blue Jays signing RHP Mat Latos to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training camp. Those rumours have been confirmed and a deal has been signed according to the Toronto Blue Jays (who are the #1 reliable source in Jays land!).
If you are not aware of who Latos is, last season he played for the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals as both a starter and reliever. In his early career with the San Diego Padres, Latos was an excellent pitcher and finished eighth in Cy-Young voting in 2010. He had been with four Major League franchises before selecting a one year contract with the Chicago White Sox in 2016. While starting with the White Sox, he had an amazing start, but a not so great ending. He signed a contract with the White Sox in the beginning of 2016 (in the offseason), and was thought of as their 5th starter. In his first four starts he pitched to an ERA of 0.74, but then allowed 29 earned runs in his next 36 innings pitched. Around the end of May (2016), the Chicago White Sox picked up James Shields (a starter essentially picked up to replace Latos) and was designated for assignment. He was then released. A few weeks later, Latos signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals, with whom he stayed with until just recently (recently as in today) signing with the Toronto Blue Jays. The route to pitching with the major league team was very slow, as he was assigned to their Rookie-level Gulf Field Coast League. After months of work in the minors to help improve him, he finally made his Nationals debut on September 4, 2016 against the New York Mets.
Today the deal was officially signed and announced (plus 30 minutes after it became official he walked onto the field wearing Jays Spring Training gear (it escalated very quickly needless today!). At this point, the deal seems to be a minor league deal with no word of how much it is worth or for how long. In short, this will give the Jays some potential pitching depth in both the bullpen and potential starting rotation (more to that in a moment).
Making it official this morning meant that over the course of today many Jays tweeters would think of some great puns about the guy (and his cat… Cat Latos). Trust me when I say they do not disappoint! Here are some of my favourites (to see all of my favourite tweets as soon as I see them, follow me on twitter here):
If you have been following the Jays closely throughout this long (and stress enduring) off season, you have probably seen talks somewhere about stretching out Joe Biagini to become a starter, or at least have a significant roll in the starting rotation (Joe has his own opinions on this subject matter, which I encourage you to watch here). If you recall, whenever a starting pitcher or a pitcher with a significant roll in the club became injured, the Jays would always call up Drew Hutchison. It is times like these that we forget the heavy roll that Hutchison played in the organization, although he spent most of his time with the Buffalo Bisons (the Toronto Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate team). With the signing of Mat Latos, the Jays can feel a bit more comfortable with the issue of not nessicarily having a back up pitcher to fill in the rotation.
Does the signing of Mat Latos affect Joe Biagini? The future is quite unclear with the answer to that question. If anything, it will leave the Jays with a tough decision (if Mat Latos shows real potential). If by chance Joe Biagini wins a fifth spot in the rotation, Mat Latos could fill the loss of Biagini in the bullpen, but I think that is a big risk as Biagini was one of the most effective players of the Jays bullpen last season. He was one of the star pitchers of last season thought the league, and being a rule 5 draft pick by the Jays made his story that much more interesting! Since the Jays have shared that they will not be limiting Aaron Sanchez like they did last year, the Jays need for a fifth starter is less significant than it was last year, but it’s reassuring to know that there are two guys that could fill the void, and do it successfully.
P.S. Here’s a picture of Mat Latos incredibly cute cat, “Cat Latos” which I expect to be a subject of discussion during some media interviews this Spring Training!