When the Nationals signed Mat Latos to a minor league deal back on June 29 they gave the veteran starting pitcher multiple opt-out opportunities throughout the summer.
The details are not public but it appears likely that Latos will want to find a place on a major league team before August is over.
If Mike Rizzo doesn’t give him a spot on the major league roster very soon Latos will probably take his show on the road and try to sign on with another team.
UPDATE: (The Nationals have reportedly made a decision and agreed to add Latos to the major league roster when rosters expand this week.):
Source: #Nationals will add Latos once rosters expand. Could have opted out today if not added, but agreed to stay at AAA until Thursday.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 29, 2016
Can now confirm Nationals plan to add Mat Latos when rosters expand in September, according to a person familiar with the situation.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) August 29, 2016
Latos has had a bumpy 2016. He started out strong for the White Sox allowing only two runs over four starts.
In the seven starts after that he averaged about four runs and five innings per game. Even the White Sox didn't have a roster spot for a pitcher of that caliber.
Since joining the Nationals minor league system he has had better success but he has struggled somewhat with command at AAA and owns a 1.35 WHIP through 17 innings.
Why would the Nationals want him at all?
They have a number of young pitchers in Joe Ross, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and A.J. Cole who can all be available once the rosters expand on September 1.
Ross will almost certainly move to the bullpen as he works his way back from the disabled list.
The other three have struggled at the major league level but have each proven capable of working a start if needed.
Why not just use them instead?
Each of the three has already set a career high in innings pitched this year and may be hitting innings limits sooner rather than later.
Lucas Giolito is at 123.1 innings this year, up from 117 last year.
Reynaldo Lopez has already pitched 127.2 innings this year, up from 99 in 2015.
A.J. Cole is at 137.1 innings this year, up from 115 in 2015.
There is still a month of regular season baseball to play and the Nationals are up by eight games in their division.
If Mike Rizzo wants to limit the use of any or all of these young arms he could use Latos instead.
While Mat Latos is not an upgrade over any of the three, he could eat innings that the Nationals would prefer not to put on their young arms as they make the push for the playoffs.