I covered this in small fashion over the weekend when the trade initially went down, but within an hour of finding out about the trade, I was out of the house and away from a computer until 5am on Sunday. My overall thoughts on this haven’t changed much. But I thought that I would break down why I am in favor of the trade.
First, let’s look at the return for the Reds: Mat Latos
I can count, on one hand, the number of starting pitchers with a higher strikeout per 9 innings rate than Mat Latos has had over the last two seasons. That is fantastic. Latos misses bats with the absolute best in the Major Leagues. He has arguably the best slider in baseball. His fastball works 92-95 and touches 98 according to Pitch F/X data. His change up has been a slightly above average pitch as well. His curveball has been slightly below average. Over the last two seasons he has thrown 379 innings with a 3.21 ERA, 112 walks and 374 strikeouts. In short, he had been dominant and he is a borderline ACE and without a doubt a #1 pitcher. Easily the Reds best pitcher.
Now let’s look at the guys we moved: Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger and Edinson Volquez
Yonder Alonso is a guy I was pretty high on. I really do think he can be an above-average Major League first baseman. With that said, the Reds don’t need one of those guys for at least two more seasons. I thought he could be a slightly above average left fielder overall, with all of his value coming from his bat, while his glove would give some back. Even still, the Reds have other options, who as left fielders, could probably give you similar overall value to what Alonso would give you out there. Essentially, he was a piece that they can replace for two years on the MLB roster and that is before even getting into the other two first baseman on the 40 man roster.
Yasmani Grandal is a guy who I think some others were a little higher on than I was, though I still think he was a premium prospect who is probably going to be ranked as a Top 75 guy at worst and more likely a Top 50 guy. However with the presence of Devin Mesoraco, there simply was no room for him on the Major League level in the next 5-6 years.
Brad Boxberger has a chance to be a good reliever, perhaps even a closer. At the end of the day though, he is a reliever and relievers almost grow on trees. In terms of pure stuff, his fastball and slider combo aren’t any better than that of Tim Crabbe. He has gotten better results with them, as a reliever, than Crabbe has as a starter, but the stuff is the same.
Edinson Volquez was going to go into spring training, at best, as the #5 starter in the Reds rotation behind Cueto, Leake, Bailey and Arroyo. He could have also potentially been behind Chapman and Wood as well. He has some upside, as we all saw in 2008. He has strong stuff, but he has always struggled with the ability to throw strikes with it and he has never really shown the ability to control his stuff. Last season it was the worst it has ever been. He is a big risk for a team to put in the rotation and count on as a contributor. But, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him come out and have a strong season either now that he is a bit further removed from Tommy John surgery.
I can understand where people can look at that, and say that the Reds gave up too much. But that is only if they are looking at it without context. Let’s pretend that all of the players the Reds traded away simply retired today rather than got traded. Now that it has happened, I don’t think that the Reds really got any worse for 2012 or 2013. Think about that for a minute. Do you disagree with that assessment?
Now, another side of course is that the Reds may have been able to use those players to acquire other guys. I saw someone else put it best with something along the lines of “Take one of the stud prospects and one of pitchers in the deal and bundle them together…. you probably aren’t going to be able to upgrade an every day position on the roster with that package” and I agree with that. So even if you were able to trade two groups of those four guys, I don’t think you improve your team as much as you are going to improve the team by just swapping out Volquez for Latos in the rotation. Not only is he going to improve the rotation, but he is also likely to improve the bullpen due to the fact that he can go deeper into games and keep guys fresher than Volquez, who you don’t know if he is going to give you 7 innings or 3 on any given night.
I just don’t see this as being a bad trade for the Reds. Nor for the Padres. It is one of those deals where both teams truly did get better by making the deal.