Upon first glance, the White Sox' one-year, $3 million deal with Mat Latos looked pretty straightforward: The Sox are giving a rotation spot to a former stalwart, hoping that Herm Schneider and Don Cooper could straighten him out enough to bolster the back end, even if he couldn't revisit his former glory.
A full day and a bunch of different angles later ... yeah, that's pretty much it.
On the morning of the Latos signing, August Fagerstrom had advocated for a match between the Sox and Yovani Gallardo. Latos accomplishes much of the same, surrendering some security for the chance at a big-time bargain. Latos signed the fourth-cheapest contract relative to FanGraphs' crowdsourced contract predictions, and the ingredients for a successful starter are still there if the Sox can keep him healthy.
- Mat Latos pitching mechanics - YouTube
- Pitching mechanics and results over time - Beyond the Box Score
Fagerstrom pointed to the above video to illustrate how Latos' knee and elbow injuries look like more than random pitcher injuries, as he doesn't use his lower body all that much. His velocity has suffered some as a result, so we'll have to watch for any differences when he takes the mound for the White Sox.
Sahadev Sharma points out the same link between Latos' fastball and his effectiveness, but he also sees a pitcher in transition. Latos has ditched his changeup for a splitter (critter?) with encouraging results recently, but he hasn't figured out how to solve the slump with his slider, which used to be a go-to pitch. Whether it's leaning on a new pitch or rediscovering an old one after injury problems, there are a couple ways Latos can regain effectiveness without peak velocity.
We've mainly been looking at numbers, so here's Bruce Levine talking to an old favorite, American League Scout:
"The White Sox made a very smart move signing Mat Latos," a veteran American League scout said. "He will get the best advice from their pitching coach, Don Cooper. Cooper has worked wonders with reclamation projects. Latos was very good before injuring his knee (in 2014). This could make the White Sox a contender if he gets back to his old form."
Later in the article, he says that Jacob Turner will become a free agent after the season, which isn't true. He's just arb-eligible.
For those of us seeking any and all word of interest in outfielders, James Fegan notes that the White Sox are still entirely capable of signing a player before the rumor mill catches wind:
If seeking a strange, counter-intuitive source of encouragement on the Dexter Fowler situation, the lead-up to the Latos signing was...Jerry Crasnick breaking the story that the deal was complete, quickly followed by everyone confirming it was done. There were no leaks of the Sox talking to Latos, despite the fact that he was apparently in town.
So while the Sox remain uncomfortably silent on the issue of plugging the biggest festering hole in their roster, those seeking to be optimistic can find optimism in that Fowler could have closed on a condo three blocks from U.S. Cellular Field, be volunteering for the neighborhood club, and doing morning tai chi on his lawn in full uniform, and the Sox might be able to control leaks until the deal was finalized.