On Saturday the Padres agreed to a trade with the Reds that will send 24-year-old right-hander Mat Latos to Cincinnati for a four-player package that includes Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger.
On trading Latos:
I discussed this topic in the December Mailbag that was posted this week and came to the conclusion that this seemed like an odd time to shop him. The only reason that you’d give up a player like Latos at this point in his career with four years of team control left is if you’re offered a package that is too good to pass up.
It’s irrelevant what sort of value fans and analysts believe Latos carries. The fact that the Padres were concerned enough about his on-field maturity to trade a young, front-of-the-rotation starter as he enters his physical prime is a huge factor to consider. No one is claiming that Latos is a bad person, simply that people who are privy to information we are not believe that in certain situations Latos tends to allow his emotions to alter his effectiveness. Add that to the fact that he has missed time the last two seasons because of shoulder injury concerns and you can see how the Padres saw an opportunity they could not let slip. While there is a good chance that Latos turns into a perennial Cy Young contender, the chance he’s the next AJ Burnett or Carlos Zambrano is just as likely.
On the players received in return:
How Volquez fits into the starting rotation is irrelevant to this site as we are just concerned about prospects and trade assets at the major league level. In that sense Volquez offers the Padres a lottery ticket that they will be looking to cash in either this summer or next.
Once considered one of the most dominant, young starters in the league, he has faced setbacks in his career due to injuries and a PED suspension. But, if the San Diego coaches can smooth out his mechanics and help him obtain some form of control he could be an extremely valuable asset. Both the Reds and Padres play similarly above-average defense so the ground-ball heavy Volquez won’t gain an advantage there, but his career 12.7% home run per fly ball rate should plummet with more than half his starts coming at Petco Park and Dodger Stadium.
Alonso ranks second among this group for MLB service time as he saw 127 plate appearances for the Reds over the last two seasons. Alonso offers every skill that Anthony Rizzo currently lacks. Alonso’s patience at the plate and strike zone judgment are extremely advanced, offering a great compliment to his plus hit tool.
Power may be Alonso’s most underrated tool at this point as a broken Hamate bone sapped his power over the last two seasons. When healthy, he projects to be a 20-25 home run threat with power to all fields. Alonso’s willingness to go the other way is similar to Adrian Gonzalez’s approach and may give him an advantage over Rizzo in the eyes of the organization. Rizzo – with all of the massive power he does poses – often gets pull happy, limiting his ultimate effectiveness in Petco Park.
According General Manager Josh Byrnes, Alonso will get the Opening Day spot at first base with Rizzo receiving more development time in Triple A and Jesus Guzman and Kyle Blanks splitting time in left field. Rizzo may be the better prospect of the two just looking at age and remaining upside, but Alonso’s advantage in current ability cannot be understated.
While Alonso is the name you’ll see first in San Diego Grandal is by far the most intriguing piece involved in the trade. The former Miami Hurricane – and teammate of Jason Hagerty – placed himself firmly on the prospect map with a huge 2011 campaign – .305/.401/.500 – gaining national praise across the board.
Grandal offers an exciting power/hit tool combination that should cement him in the middle of the Padres lineup once he is called up. The fact that he plays one of the most offensively scarce positions on the diamond means that if Grandal comes close to his offensive potential he could be a Top 5 backstop in the game.
At this point defense is his biggest holdup. Above average arm strength helps him nail a respectable 34% of runners, but Grandal’s receiving skills are far from refined. He has the knowledge and experience to call games and handle MLB pitchers, but Grandal has yet to show the ability to control plus pitches thrown to him – both in velocity and movement.
Boxberger rounds out the Padres’ new quartet. The starter-turned-reliever poses electric stuff out of the bullpen and could turn into a premium reliever if he is able to harness his control. Boxberger’s mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slurvey curveball aren’t typical for a closer but his eye-popping 13.5 K/9 posted in 2011 show his potential. He also uses a changeup occasionally as a “show me” pitch but its primary purpose is to keep hitters honest.
There has been some sentiment voiced today that Boxberger could start, but that seems extremely unlikely without a legitimate third pitch. He will remind many of Brad Brach with Brach having a bit more velocity and Boxberger possessing the superior secondary pitch.
At the end of the day the Padres acquired three former first round draft picks for a player they did not see still on their roster when the upcoming core reaches their prime. It is obvious that the organization’s main focus at this point – as it should be – is just to obtain as much talent as possible. While this trade likely makes them worse in 2012 the future of the franchise looks bright.
Grade the Mat Latos trade