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Mat Latos worth the potential headache for White Sox

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Propensity for sour exits lowers price enough to shore up Robin Ventura's rotation

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We've paid a lot of attention to the White Sox' remaining position-player voids, and for good reason. Avisail Garcia has been a disaster, even if kind of a beautiful one, and there's nothing in the minors to save the Sox from him or themselves.

Underneath the more noticeable holes , the Sox also courted danger with the rotation. There's nothing wrong with Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon manning the top three spots, and John Danks is fine in the fifth spot when considering how bad the average fifth starter is. But asking him, Erik Johnson or Jacob Turner to step up as a fourth starter is kind of a tall order, whichever pitcher failed to make the rotation wouldn't be a particularly strong sixth starter, at least over an extended period of time.

With Mat Latos now in the picture, though, the rotation is now a non-issue (assuming the caveat that things can still go wrong for unexpected reasons). Most teams don't have three good starters, so they were already ahead of the game. Now they have a back-end starter with upside to go along with youth and experience. Adding to the rotation results in diminishing returns from here on out, and the Sox have bigger gains to make elsewhere.

Latos hasn't been an above-average contributor since 2013, but a knee injury has stunted his last two years more than anything. When he's been healthy and happy, he's been good enough for what the Sox need. If he can get his velocity back to 93, so much the better, especially if there's anything to this Critter pitch.

The question is whether he can ever be truly healthy or happy. Herm Schneider will do what he can to address the former, but history says Robin Ventura may not have a whole lot of control over the latter.

Considering the White Sox paid $1.75 million for one year of a post-surgery Felipe Paulino, $3 million for one year of Latos, two seasons removed from a strong run with the Reds, seems like a no-brainer. He's only 28, so time should still be on his side. If it isn't, the payroll won't really feel it.

Of course, the price was low because Latos has a habit of no-brain actions himself. The good(?) news is that most of it involves burning bridges. And not every one, just most of them.

After the Padres traded him to the Reds, he gloated about his new team playing into October, criticizing the staid San Diego clubhouse and saying, "All I know is that I'm in the playoffs. They're home watching me. I think things worked out pretty good."

After the Reds traded him to the Marlins, he lashed out at Cincinnati's staff for rushing him back from knee surgery in 2014, and again at the clubhouse culture ("everything went to s---" after the departures of Bronson Arroyo and Scott Rolen). The Reds fired back in kind, with Homer Bailey saying that Latos' character is questionable.

This time, the former team had the last laugh. Latos' start in Miami was interrupted by a reaggravation of the knee injury, and, after a strong return from the disabled list, he was traded to the Dodgers. His success didn't make the trip with him -- he posted a 6.66 ERA, was relegated to the bullpen after complaining about Don Mattingly's short hook, and then was released in mid-September. He finished the year on the Angels, appearing twice in relief.

Most of the public problems have happened ex post facto, but based on comments from his former teammates, Latos laid the groundwork for them behind the scenes. That said, Skip Schumaker wasn't exactly right when he called it "addition by subtraction." The last two years Latos was healthy, the Reds won 97 and 90 games. In his injury-shortened half-season, the Reds won 76. Without Latos in 2015, the Reds finished with just 64 victories.

He might not be a 12-WAR player by either measure, but a healthy Latos helps a team win games. The Sox are good at keeping pitchers on the mound, and based on what we've been told repeatedly, Ventura's (sole) strength is keeping a harmonious clubhouse. The Sox rarely have leverage in player acquisition, so they may as well exercise it given the opportunity. Maybe the Todd Frazier trade will also ease the transition, but then again, Frazier took Rolen's job at third base.

However Latos arrived at his decision to join the White Sox, it's definitely his first step back. He made $9.5 million in his final arbitration year, so a one-year, $3 million contract with meager, amusing incentives -- $100,000 apiece for an MVP, Cy Young and World Series MVP -- should be humbling. I guess we'll find out if modesty is at all possible with him.