I want the Red Sox to trade for Mat Latos for two reasons: 1) He is a good pitcher, and 2) Cat Latos, Mat Latos’ cat. Here is a video of Mat and Cat Latos dancing:
He can leave the pornograhically sized gun in the greater Cincinnati area.
Don't want to see this on NESN? Don't you want to hear Jerry Remy talk about this every fifth game? Don't you want Remy and Don Orsillo to laugh so hard they cry as they try to explain what's going on? Don't you want them to fail, because even they don't understand? Well, I do, and of all trade targets around the league, that's entertainment we can only get with Mat Latos.
What else can we get? Innings. Command. A declining strikeout rate. Stem cells in his elbow. Some shit on his chin. Ink. They are available from Cincinnati, or so says the Internet, and there is no question the Red Sox could use them. He is part of a moving puzzle, and one of the pieces with the most well-defined edges so far. In the event the Red Sox signed Jon Lester and traded for Cole Hamels, there may be no use for him or nothing left to trade, but if they missed out on either one he'd be an attractive workhorse. I suspect that Hamels is the trade priority, but I also suspect that if the Sox could get a line on any two out of the three they'd just take the shot at it and let the third one walk. Unless they didn't, but I'm not sure the stove is *that* hot.
Should we consider what the Sox would have to give up? It is a price the Red Sox can likely afford. Even if he's relatively expensive, as Bleacher Report columnist Ben Carsley wrote, it's probably worth it, provided the Sox kept Mookie Betts. Given that Betts is a near-certainty to break camp with the team, it would be better, Carsley writes, for us to "expect names like Blake Swihart, Henry Owens and Margot to be bandied about if talks heat up. That may seem like a steep price, but Latos is sort of an ideal No. 2 starter who should cost a little less to lock up to an extension than the options in the free-agent market this offseason."
Long story short: it would be prospects, unless the Reds are simply trading pitching for hitting and would swap expiring deals to get Yoenis Cespedes in their outfield. I'm generally in favor of trading prospects for solid major league players, considering any prospect you're trading is only prospectively going to become exactly the thing you are getting. Put another way, Latos is pretty good, and the Sox seem to be targeting 'pretty good' players this offseason.
As with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, though, there are some worries. Last year his K/9 was way down, from 8.0 6.5. The only reason his ERA didn't rise was a .369 BABIP, and all of this was in the NL. The flip side is that is FIP was 3.65 and his xFIP was 3.99, so he was still fine. His stats look a lot -- a lot -- like those of John Lackey, before he came to the Red Sox. Lackey came at age 32. Latos is 26. You could read this both ways: you could say he has room to grow, or you could say that his post-mélange-of-injuries decline in K/9 points to brewing problem. Given that it was a half-season, I'm willing to bet on the former.
Of course, it bears asking why the Reds would be willing to shop Latos, outside of the incentive to get something in return for him before he contract runs out next November. If the Red Sox were to work a trade, an extension would or just should be part of it, especially given Latos' age. Even if they extended it three years, it only brings him up to age 30, the new balking point for some organizations, the Red Sox included. Affordable starting pitchers are no longer found on the margins: now, they're found in the fat middle of a prime.
Emerald-green eyed Carsley is right. Latos' ceiling isn't very high, but his floor isn't very low, which isn't a ringing endorsement until you're talking about someone who doesn't have to be a Game 1 starter. That's what Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto (dream big!) or someone out of figurative left field is there for: Latos would be there later in a series to keep things moving, and he's more than a guy who just makes cat videos and builds arsenals, or at least he probably will be through age 30. He may not be worth the price, but he may also be a relative bargain to help the Sox continue to rebuild from the middle out.