Dodgers to acquire Mat Latos, Michael Morse and draft pick

Here we go. The Dodgers reportedly are acquiring right-hander Mat Latos, outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse and competitive balance pick No. 34 (just awarded to them a week ago) from the Marlins for three minor-league pitchers.

For fun (and it means almost nothing), the last time the Dodgers sent three minor-league pitchers to the Marlins, it was Steve Ames, Angel Sanchez and Josh Wall for Ricky Nolasco.

Breathe. Before we start freaking out, no, Latos will not be the only starting pitcher the Dodgers acquire before Friday. Getting Latos, depending on the price, is not a bad get. The Dodgers are paying all his and Morse’s contract, so the return going to Miami shouldn’t be of too much consequence.

Normally, I’d be pretty stoked about acquiring a 27-year-old pitcher with past success for the rotation, but Latos feels a little underwhelming. Perhaps I just wasn’t aware of what he was doing this season. He hasn’t been great, but he has been solid. This is also how you save yourself from having Mike Bolsinger, a still-recovering Brandon Beachy or Carlos Frias from start a playoff game.

Latos was a really good pitcher in San Diego before he was traded to Cincinnati (in a deal for Yasmani Grandal, executed by Josh Byrnes, coincidentally) where he was a 200-plus inning pitcher in two of his three seasons (was hurt last year) and has been kinda “meh” on the whole this season. He owns a 4.48 ERA, but he’s out-pitching that with a quite nice 3.34 FIP. He’s more of a fly ball pitcher, which plays pretty well in the NL West.

Latos had a rough 2014 season after undergoing knee surgery. He accused the Reds of rushing him back from the injury, which the Reds, naturally, denied. But despite a higher-than-preferred ERA, he seems to be almost all the way back from it. He’s throwing his fastball at 91.3 MPH this season after having it at 90.7 MPH last year. He was more of a 92-94 MPH pitcher before last season, so perhaps there’s still a little velocity to be found. He throws a slider, curveball, changeup and, just added in 2015, a splitter. His swinging strike rate is in line with his career mark, and the rest of his peripherals are pretty encouraging.

This helps Latos in the off-season, as he cannot be extended a qualifying offer, meaning he’ll get a nice deal from a team (maybe the Dodgers — we’ll see how the rest of the season goes). He’s the biggest winner in this deal.

Morse is, well, roster fodder at this point. He’s a -0.7-win player this season, doesn’t walk (6.9 percent), strikes out a ton (31.2 percent) and isn’t hitting for power (.101 ISO) — or at all, really (65 wRC+). Initially, Morse looked like he might be a replacement for Scott Van Slyke, say, if he were to get shipped out in another deal. After a quick glance at his numbers, there’s almost no chance that’s the case. Morse provides no defensive value and if he isn’t hitting dingers, he isn’t much of a baseball player. It’s entire possible (probable?) that he is designated for assignment shortly after his official acquisition. He has no value to the Dodgers.

There is some validity to this statement. On the other hand, it isn’t the Dodgers’ fault that:

  1. MLB allows the trading of competitive balance draft picks
  2. Teams would rather have any money gained (saved) by trading said picks

And getting the pick is just icing on the cake for the Dodgers. It’s the reason they’re taking on almost $14 million in additional salary for this year and next (Morse is signed through 2016). The Dodgers now have their own 1st-round pick (somewhere in the mid-to-late-20s), pick No. 34 and No. 36 (for failing to sign Kyle Funkhouser). They might also gain supplemental 1st-round picks if they extend qualifying offers to Howie Kendrick and Zack Greinke (and they subsequently don’t re-sign).

The Dodgers’ biggest asset at the trade deadline (or when making any significant transaction, really) is money. This is a prime example of that statement being factual.

No word as of yet who the Dodgers are sending to Miami, but I’d be plenty surprised if it’s anyone of real significance. The Dodgers are taking on all money, getting a rental starting pitcher and one of the worst position players (in 2015). That doesn’t exactly scream “top prospects going the other way.”

The Dodgers might very well acquire a pitcher like Jeff Samardzija or someone of that ilk, but I’m guessing they have their sights set a little higher: David Price or Cole Hamels.

Strap-in, folks. It’s gonna be a fun, stressful and exciting few days.

Oh, and Clayton Kershaw may or may not get scratched from tonight’s start because of a sore hip/glute. He might not pitch until Saturday or Sunday. Nothing to be too concerned about.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.