On Tuesday afternoon, the Chicago White Sox suddenly made an announcement that probably caught most fans and media members off guard. The team announced that they had signed veteran right-handed pitcher Mat Latos to a 1-year, $3 million deal.
This signing caught most of White Sox nation off guard for various reasons:
1. “Why Mat Latos? He hasn’t been good in years!”
Latos was a very serviceable pitcher at one point for both the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds. Believe it or not, those days weren’t all that long ago. Latos burst onto the scene in 2010 by winning 14 games for the Padres while posting a 2.92 ERA. After a down year in 2011, he was traded to the Reds where he posted two more 14-win seasons in 2012 and 2013. He battled injury in 2014 and 2015, and played for three different organizations in that span. At the end of the day, however, the White Sox made a move that seems to fit well on paper. Entering his age 28 season, you could argue that Latos is in the midst of what is supposed to be the prime years of a baseball player. If you’re a “glass half full” person, then spread your optimism to White Sox friends and family. Remind all the pessimists that the Sox only needed $3 million to sign a three-time, 14-game winner who could be in the prime of his career.
2. “Why Mat Latos? He won’t get along with Brett Lawrie!”
This is not only the most popular analysis of the Latos signing via Sox fan social media, but it is also the most ridiculous. First, Latos has never been in the same clubhouse as Lawrie. So why would anyone assume that the two players will clash? Second, Lawrie has never been on an AL Central team. So how can you suggest that you know the ins and outs of the men’s personalities based off of SportsCenter highlights and news flashes? Ok, maybe it doesn’t take much evidence to reach a conclusion that Lawrie and Latos are different characters than Adrian Gonzalez and Paul Goldschmidt. But at least give these guys a chance to inhabit the same clubhouse before you make your judgments.
3. “Why Mat Latos? The Sox already have Erik Johnson!”
This was actually the first reaction that I had on Tuesday afternoon. All indications were that the Sox were ready to hand over a spot in the rotation to Erik Johnson, and I had convinced myself to be fine with it. Although Johnson failed miserably when the Sox gave him his first crack at the rotation to begin the 2014 season, he had shown every sign of a player with new life in 2015. He was named Most Outstanding Pitcher in the International League last year which earned him a September promotion back to the big leagues where he went 3-1 with a 3.34 ERA in 6 starts. With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, and John Danks all locks in the rotation, Johnson figured to be the lone right-hander in the group before Tuesday.
Given Latos’ recent injury history and Johnson’s recent success, it appears that the White Sox will use Spring Training as the official tryout for the final rotation spot. Whichever player does not win the rotation spot will probably be stored as insurance to the other, but there is also a possibility that the Latos signing could trigger a Johnson trade. Rick Hahn has said repeatedly throughout the offseason that there is no deadline to improve the ball club, suggesting that the Sox will probably at least kick the tires on any trade opportunity. After all, the Sox still have some holes to fill on their roster.
Follow me on Twitter – @JeremyChiSox