Breaking Down the Mat Latos Trade


If we had to declare a winner, who would it be?  Would the Cincinnati Reds come out on top, or did the Padres get the most bang out of this trade.  As reported yesterday, Mat Latos was sent to Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger.  The latter three were all recently ranked top ten in the Reds’ organization by

The Reds are taking away one of the few bright spots for the Padres.  While Latos’ numbers slid a bit in 2011, his stuff did not change.  Latos is a strikeout pitcher who induces plenty of groundballs.  It would be very easy to have an emotional reaction to this move and dismiss it as insanity on the Padres’ part.  However, looking at the trade objectively, it seems the Padres were very smart in pulling the trigger.  I wrote just the other day the Padres needed to ask for a lot from any team interested in Latos.  Well, they got a lot from the Reds.

In Volquez, the Padres are receiving a player who can make an instant contribution.  He can step in and immediately become the Padres number two starter.  He may even move up to the ace for next season.  It’s no secret Volquez has control problems, especially in the first couple innings, but he should benefit from the size of Petco Park.  His wildness may lead to base-runners, but the park should help keep his home run totals down.  I spoke with John Heitz of Blog Red Machine, part of our FanSided network.  He is close to this story from his time covering the Reds, and he had this to say about Volquez:

“I believe Volquez can be a very good pitcher, but he needs a sports psychologist to work with his consistency issues.  In particular, he needs to deal with his 1st inning lack of preparedness.”

In 2008, Volquez went 17-6, finished 4th in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting, and made the All-Star Team.  Since then, he has struggled to stay healthy and to maintain control.  In 2009 he only pitched 49.2 innings, and in 2010 he only pitched in 62.2 innings.  He bounced back with a full season this past year, but stumbled to a 5-7 record with a 5.71 ERA.  Volquez’s ERA+ is a perfect example of a bell curve as he posted numbers of 33, 64, 102, 138, 97, 95, and 68.  The Padres can only hope his ERA+ begins to curve back up starting in 2012.

While this is by no means a good measure of potential success, it’s interesting to note the Reds gave up Josh Hamilton to get Volquez originally.  Hamilton was still a highly-regarded outfielder at the time and hadn’t yet given in to the demons of drugs and alcohol fully.

The next player in this trade that can make an immediate contribution for the Padres is Yonder Alonso.  Alonso saw 127 plate appearances over the course of two seasons with the Reds.  In his time with the big league club, he has shown flashes of greatness at the plate.  In 98 plate appearances last year, Alosno only struck out 21 times.  He walked 10 times and hit 5 home runs.  He’s barely had enough time in the big leagues to truly analyze, but most people think very highly of him.

Heitz said, “Alonso is an excellent hitter and an adequate first baseman.  His drawback is slow feet, but he is said to have dropped 18 pounds working at [the University of Miami] with former teammate Jon Jay of the Cardinals.  If he can improve his footwork and maintain his power, he looks like an excellent hitter to me.”

According to Fangraphs, Alonso has had six minor league seasons with a wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) of 120 or more, meaning his totals were at least 20% better than league average six out of his seven minor league seasons.  Bill James predicts the following line for his 2012 season: .277/.345/.446 with 11 home runs.

Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger figure to spend a little more time at the minor league level, although Grandal has quickly advanced from High-A ball to Triple-A last season.  Grandal, in 113 minor league games, put up a triple-slash of .303/.401/.488 with 14 home runs.  Boxberger figures to be a closer once he reaches the Major League level.  In two minor league seasons, Boxberger has pitched in 91 games.  He only has 11 saves to date, but the more important stats are his K/9 ratio, his K/BB ratio, and his ERA.  Boxberger put has 11.9 K/9 ratio, a 2.9 K/BB ratio, and a 3.75 ERA.  Many people figure with his conversion to closer, Boxberger could make an immediate impact.  He will likely be in competition with Cory Burns for the future closer role for the Padres.

According to Heitz, Grandal “was a number one draft pick and moved from Advanced A to AAA ball this year.  He hit well during each stop.  [Boxberger] is an excellent prospect, capable of being a successful closer in MLB.  He seems to be cool under pressure and only needs to control occasional wildness.”

With Nick Hundley firmly planted as the Padres’ number one guy at catcher, it’s unclear what the club’s plans are with Grandal.  They may allow Grandal to develop a bit more, allow Hundley to increase his trade value, and work a trade in the future with Hundley that will allow Grandal to step in and take over the starting catcher role.  As for Boxberger, as long as he continues to succeed at the minor league level and can prove himself at the Major League level, he will make either a nice closer or a nice set-up man.

In all, the Padres got a lot of talent while only giving up one player.  Granted that player was Mat Latos and one of the best players in the organization, but the move seems to favor San Diego overall.  However, this trade could easily end up being great for both clubs.  The Reds get a potential ace, and the Padres get immediate help and additional farm system talent.