Rays Rumors

Rays Rumors: Why Are Rays Linked to Matt Latos?

By Mat Germain
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The Rays have a plethora of SP in-house/AAA/AA, and they’re considered a power house when it comes to developing great arms. So why, then, are they reportedly checking in on Matt Latos?

The report came in earlier today that the Rays are amongst 5 teams that have checked-in on Matt Latos. The other teams being the Orioles, Brewers, Pirates, and Royals, all of which make a lot more sense than the Rays on the surface.

The last portion is why this report makes more sense, and here are 4 reasons why:

The Need

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The Rays seemingly have a ton of starting pitching available, but if we assume that they do in fact intend to deal

Jake Odorizzi

, the overall innings get pretty thin. Here’s a rundown of what the Rays starters threw last year:

Assuming the Rays want to have their younger starters begin the year in the minors, both for experience and for arbitration clock purposes, this leaves a hole in the rotation for at least the first few months of the year.

The Rays do have Alex Colome who could also step up to make a dozen or so starts, until the Rays are ready to call up others. He threw 109 innings last year and would be a fine addition to the rotation if required. But as with any rotation, you always expect a few bumps along the road.

So, now we know the Rays may need to both deal a SP and acquire one through trade or FA in order to make due for the first portion of the season.

The Cost

A one-year deal, even in today’s market, is something the Rays can afford. Assuming their arbitration cases go as predicted and players on the roster remain the same, aside from Odorizzi, the Rays would be looking at a cost of approximately $61m. That leaves them with approximately $10-15m to work with.

MLBTR predicted that Matt Latos will be signing with the Pirates at a cost of $12m for a one-year deal. Assuming the Rays can acquire Latos at $10-$12m for one season, it’s a cost they could certainly absorb.

The Trade Value and Qualifying Offer

Let’s assume for one moment that the Rays are successful in acquiring Latos. And let’s also assume he doesn’t blow up and have a productive first half of the season. If the Rays need to make a move to acquire a piece, or to replenish the system if they’re out of the playoff picture, they can use Latos as a trade chip.

But let’s also assume that the Rays have a successful season and head towards the playoffs, keeping Latos for the run. What they can also do at that point is make a Qualifying offer to Latos for 2017, something he’d likely refuse if he had a good year, and the Rays would benefit both from a great season and a bonus draft pick.

The Development and Arbitration

There’s something to be said for not rushing pitchers to the majors. The Rays are already aggressive in promoting the majority of their starters, so there’s no need to add to that by having them start 2016 with the Rays. Even a few months to sharpen their stuff in AA/AAA can go a long way to building their confidence and preparing them for the leap to the majors.

When you’re the Rays and costs are such a significant portion of what you do, there’s good reason to hold your top prospects back a little so that their arbitration clocks don’t start early. The last thing the Rays need is for someone to qualify as a super-two player and to have his time with the Rays end early.

Overall

If not Matt Latos, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rays add one other starter if they are in fact intent on dealing one of their starters. Others that would interesting include Doug Fister, Cliff Lee, and Tim Lincecum, in order of likeliness.

I’m not saying that I’m a huge fan of Latos or that I think he’d want to come into an A.L. East situation to rebuild his reputation. But, I do understand the Rays checking in and if healthy and if it means the Rays can deal an arm for an improvement at the plate, I think it could be a worthwhile  investment.

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He’s motivated after he just had the worst season of his career, something that could simply be a hiccup in an otherwise productive career. If he does decide to head to Tampa Bay, as unlikely as that is, he’d be provided the opportunity to prove he could handle pitching well in the A.L., something that would significantly improve his options in 2017 and beyond. So as much as the N.L. teams seem to make more sense, don’t discount his accepting an offer from the Rays to fully rebuild his value once and for all.

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