Today, Ken Rosenthal (a very good writer and analyst, I want to point out) suggested the Padres have no reason not to trade Mat Latos. He specifically stated:
“True, Latos is still affordable; he isn’t eligible for salary arbitration until 2013. But the Padres, a low-revenue team, are trying to improve through trades, not free agency. And two of their most available players, second baseman Orlando Hudson and shortstop Jason Bartlett, are drawing little interest.”
The problem with Rosenthal’s take on the Padres situation is its short-sightedness. Rosenthal seems to think trades are the way the Padres are going to compete. What he fails to mention is that smart trades are the only way the team can truly compete. Trading away talented, young, inexpensive players before the height of their trade demand makes no sense. Much like the Padres are asking for “the moon” in return for Chase Headley, they should only consider a Latos trade right now if they are presented with an offer they can’t refuse. I’m not talking about a bloody horse’s head in someone’s bed. I’m talking about a trade that instantly makes the club better, but also makes the club better long-term.
You’ve heard the phrase “mortgaging the future.” Moving Latos now would fall under that category. Trading away Latos while he has inexpensive years ahead of him, and the talent to be a true ace in San Diego, for a chance to win now doesn’t make business sense. It doesn’t make baseball sense. Instead, the Padres should give Latos an inexpensive, incentive-laced contract extension. They would avoid his arbitration years and make a very attractive trade candidate in the near future.
Rosenthal suggests the Padres may be able to land multiple players in both a Headley trade and a Latos trade, a move that could provide additional young talent with which to build towards future competition. Not a bad plan I’ll admit, but why waste the cheap years the team can get from Latos? Keep him around, sign an inexpensive extension, and hope he has a bounce-back year in 2012. This would allow the team the possibility of competition in 2012 while hopefully further increasing Latos’ trade value.
Of course Josh Byrnes is willing to listen to offers for every player on the roster, but that doesn’t mean all are truly up for the taking. I firmly believe Mat Latos is untouchable right now, no matter what Byrnes says publicly. His current value plus his potential future value makes it almost impossible for a team to offer enough to snatch Latos away.
With a limited budget, rumors like this are incredibly important. The more rumors surrounding Latos, the more exposure he gets. The more exposure, the larger the trade value. Most people think Latos will have a better year in 2012 than 2011. With the rumors around other teams’ interest in him, an above-average year, and an attractive contract, Latos’ value to the Padres grows exponentially after next season.