Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reaction: Reds get Mat Latos

The National League Central landscape has changed drastically over the last few weeks.  Albert Pujols traded leagues and headed west to become an Angel.  Prince Fielder still hasn't made a decision, and while he still could return to the NL Central with either the Cubs or Brewers, it's possible he winds up elsewhere.  Ryan Braun faces a 50 game suspension.  All those factors have left the NL Central door open for a team to step in.  Today, the Reds, who already had a talented core who led them to a playoff birth tow seasons ago, seized that opportunity, trading for Mat Latos.

In return, the Padres received SP Edinson Volquez, 1B Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, and RP Brad Boxberger.  The Padres got a solid haul, although some of the players they choose have resulted in some head-scratching, including by myself.

Volquez may be an underrated piece in this trade.  He's under control for two more seasons, and due to a "dismal" season last year, Volquez shouldn't cost too much.  I put the word "dismal" in quotes because last year Volquez had a 4.08 xFIP compared to an ERA of 5.71.  Two seasons ago he put up an xFIP of 3.75.  It's quite possible that Petco could allow Volquez next year to have a good half-season with an ERA in the mid 3's and the Padres could take advantage of that and swap him at the trade deadline.

Alonso, 24 years old, was Sickels's #3 prospect last year.  Sickels gave him a B+ grade and called him an "Above average hitter, but blocked positionally."  Alonso had put up solid numbers throughout his time in the minors after being drafted out of the University of Miami in the first round by the Reds, showcasing an above-average hit tool, above-average power, and excellent plate discipline.  Last year he really showed off his bat in 98 PA's in Cincinnati, putting up a wOBA of .409 and wRC+ of 160.  Alonso won't hit that well over the long course, but he will be an asset with his bat, and has athleticism to be a very good glove at 1B, despite a failed experiment to try him in LF last year.

Grandal, now 23, followed in Alonso's footsteps, being drafted out of the University of Miami by the Reds in the first round.  A defense first backstop coming out of college, Grandal also impressed at the plate last season playing at three levels.  He put up a .901 OPS  in 105 games in the Reds farm system.  Ironically, his defense abilities came into questions by scouts and his walk rate took a hit moving from A to AA, but Grandal is still a solid prospect, still deserving of the B+ grade Sickels gave him.

Boxberger was given a C+ by Sickels last year, although he questioned the pitcher's role.  Boxberger earned 11 saves last year, showing that he had the mental fortitude and ability to miss bats (13.5 K/9) to be a high leverage reliever in the big leagues. 

Mat Latos, a former top prospect in the Padres system, is the potential top-of-the-rotation starter the Reds have been missing over the past few years.  Only 23, Latos has filthy stuff evident by his career 8.65 K/9 rate and his has solid control of it evident by 2.87 BB/9 rate.  He has a career FIP of 3.28 as well, although it may be more prudent to look at his career 3.51 xFIP considering Latos will be moving from Petco to Great American Ball Park.  Overall, since Latos is so young and has such a great arsenal that has produced solid results at the major league level so far, it's likely the Reds just got a top-of-the-rotation stud through 2015.  Instead, if Latos doesn't realize his full potential, he should still be a very useful #2-3 starter. 

Obviously the Reds getting better affects the Pirates directly, as both teams compete for the NL Central crown ever year.  However, it is well worth pointing out that the Reds will have to commit large amounts of  money to keep both Brandon Phillips (after this year) and Joey Votto (post-2013) with the Reds over the next two years in order to keep their core together.  As such, it's possible Latos will have his most significant contributions to the Reds over the next two years.  It's my opinion that the Pirates window really won't open until then anyway, so all this does it provide the Reds with no obvious replacement to Votto if he leaves and forces them to rely on top catching prospect Devin Mesoraco even more with Grandal now in San Diego.

In addition, keep in mind this quote from Ken Rosenthal, "Rival exec on #Padres' next move: 'Trade Rizzo. No doubt.'"  If you ask me, it's probably time for Neal Huntington to call the Padres.