The Padres weren’t looking to trade their 24-year-old ace, but there’s simply no way that they could turn this down.
Cincinnati sent 1B/OF Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Edinson Volquez and RHP Brad Boxberger to San Diego for RHP Mat Latos in a trade announced Saturday.
In return, the Reds get one of the game’s most promising young pitchers to head a rotation also set to include Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and either Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman or Travis Wood. Latos is 27-29 with a 3.37 ERA in since debuting with the Padres in 2009. He’ll make close to the minimum next year and he’s four years away from free agency, making him a very valuable property.
Still, this looks like a pretty classic overpay from a frustrated GM in Walt Jocketty. The Reds’ plans had been stifled all winter to date. Now Jocketty has resorted to using the Reds’ two-best trade chips, their still tantalizing reclamation project and one of the game’s best relief prospects, all in the same deal.
Alonso, the seventh overall selection in the 2008 draft, excelled in his time in the majors last season, batting .330/.398/.545 in 88 at-bats. His minor league numbers were more good than great, so he’s probably not a future All-Star. However, he projects as a nice regular at first base and the Padres will have him under control for six years. What that means for fellow top prospect Anthony Rizzo still has to be figured out. Alonso could be stashed in left field at some point or maybe he gets traded again. For now, he’ll probably start at first, with Rizzo returning to Triple-A.
Grandal, the 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft, is one of the game’s top five catching prospects, but he was blocked by an even better one in Cincinnati in Devin Mesoraco. He hit .296/.410/.510 in 206 at-bats in high-A and .301/.360/.474 in 156 at-bats in Double-A last season. He also projects as an above average defender. He’s going to need a year in Triple-A, but his arrival makes Nick Hundley expendable in San Diego.
Volquez, 28, went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA for the Reds in 2008 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2009 and getting hit with a 50-game PED suspension during his rehab. Things seemed fine after he returned in 2010, but he struggled mightily last season, going 5-7 with a 5.71 ERA and 65 walks in 108 2/3 innings. Volquez still has his old velocity, so the upside is there if he can start throwing more strikes. He’ll make about $1.8 million next year and he’s under control through 2013, so he still qualifies as a pretty nice pickup.
Boxberger is the lesser name in the deal, but he was looking like a potential closer of the future for the Reds. The 2009 supplemental first-round pick had a 2.03 ERA and a 93/28 K/BB ratio in 62 inings between Double- and Triple-A last season. Boxberger throws 92-95 mph and has a surprisingly good changeup to go along with his slider. He could win a spot in the Padres bullpen next spring and become one of the team’s top relievers quickly.
So, the Reds got their impact player, and that counts for something in an NL Central that’s looking pretty winnable with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder departing. Latos is no Petco creation — he has a lifetime ERA of 3.57 on the road — and he still has the potential to take his game up a notch. It’s just that the cost was huge, and while the Reds didn’t give up anyone they looked at as a key player for 2011, they certainly hindered their ability to make future trades by giving up four quality properties here. Score one for the Padres. When teams say they’re not going to trade a player unless their bowled over, this is precisely the kind of deal they have in the back of their minds.