Seeking pitching depth with an eye on the second half of the 2016 season, the Nationals have signed veteran starting pitcher Mat Latos to a minor league deal.
Latos, 28, joins his seventh major league organization. He most recently played for the White Sox and was released on June 17. The right-hander is 6-2 with a 4.62 ERA across 60 1/3 innings this season.
"It gives us some depth," manager Dusty Baker said. "It gives us some depth in case something happens to someone. Or, if nothing else, September is right around the corner. Mat is trying to get into as good of shape as possible. He needs to get in shape first."
Baker would know what it takes to get Latos in top form. He managed him for two seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. Under Baker, Latos went 14-4 with a 3.48 ERA in 2012 and 14-7 with a 3.16 mark in 2013.
Baker believes Latos can get back to that level if he plays his cards right.
"I know there's more in there because he's not old and he's not hurt anymore. There's more in there. I've seen him," Baker said. "He's 28, that's nothing. He hasn't even reached [his prime] yet. It's up to him to get there."
Latos hails from nearby Alexandria, Va. and holds a 3.57 ERA in 188 total MLB appearances. The Nats are his fifth organization over the last calendar year. Over the last two seasons he's posted a 4.84 ERA with the Marlins, Dodgers, Angels and White Sox.
Chicago, Baker says, may have given up on him too early.
"They didn't give him a whole bunch of time to fall apart. Maybe they didn't believe in the victories that preceded us getting there. I don't know. I thought it was a bit premature for them to release him," he said.
Baker was consulted by the Nationals front office before they decided to sign Latos. The eight-year veteran actually faced Washington in his last game on June 7. That day in Chicago he allowed six earned runs on five hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings of work. This season he has averaged a career-low of 90.0 miles per hour on his fastball.
Baker has a close relationship with Latos and had even made plans before Latos was let go to meet his wife and newborn child. Now he may cross paths with him again with the Nationals.
The Latos signing was first reported by Bruce Levine of 670 The Score in Chicago.