The Matt Latos Trade

17 Dec

The San Diego Padres, who already had a top farm system, made a trade with the Cincinnati Reds.  They traded young starter Matt Latos to the Reds for 4 players.  Probably the most recognizable name in the trade from the Reds is starter Edinson Volquez, part of the infamous DVD trio of the Texas Rangers from a few years ago who netted the Rangers one Josh Hamilton.  But he’s really just a throw-in in this trade.  The Padres also received prospects Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger from the Reds.

I can’t say it enough.  I love, love, love this trade for the Padres.

Yes, the Padres are giving up a potentially great young starter in Matt Latos.  He’s a 24 year old righty who is already entering his third full season in a major league starting rotation.  Barring injury, he’s ready to go 200+ innings for the first time in his career.  In the past 2 seasons, he has struck out roughly a batter per inning while allowing just 3 walks per 9 innings pitched.  He was more hittable last season while striking out fewer hitters and allowing more walks.  None of the changes were large, so we’ll just chalk it up to statistical noise at this point without digging into it too much.

As with all Padres starters, I’m curious about the home and away splits to see if he is a Petco mirage.  Latos allowed a .641 OPS at home and a .668 OPS on the road in 2011.  The only thing that really stands out in his home and away splits is a 3.50 to 1 strikeout to wake rate at home and a 2.61 strikeout to walk rate on the road.  That’s still a solid strikeout to walk rate on the road.   In 2010, his home and away OPS allowed numbers were similar, and his strikeout to walk rate was actually better on the road.  In other words, Matt Latos is a legitimately good major league starting pitcher.

Now onto the Reds players going to the Padres.  At 28 years old, to say right handed starter Edinson Volquez is a bit of an enigma may be a bit of an understatement.  His career year was 2008 which was also his rookie year.  He threw a career high 196 innings while winning 17 games.  He struck out 206 batters in those 196 innings but also walked 93.  Health has been a major issue, but he has not been able to approach that 2.22 strikeout to walk ratio in the 3 season since his rookie year.  The strikeouts remain high, but he walks have been more than 5 per 9 innings pitched.  This is not to worry for the Padres fans.  We’ll refer to him as a cheaper, more enigmatic, right handed version of Francisco Liriano – a worthwhile throw in in any deal.

Yonder Alonso was the Reds’ 2008 first round pick (7th overall).  He’s a 24 year old major league ready hitting machine who is limited to 1B and 1B only defensively.  He should be able to hit .280-.300, get on base 34-36% of the time, and hit 20-30 home runs in his sleep.  With Joey Votto entrenched at first for the near future and his fairly obvious defensive limitations (to put it lightly), Alonso had no clear cut path to get into the Reds’ lineup and was deemed expendable.  We could only wish Chris Parmelee was this caliber of prospect.

Speaking of blocked, the Reds also included a top notch catching prospect in the deal in 23 year old Yasmani Grandal, their 2010 first round pick (12th overall).  The switch hitting catcher may be major league ready by the middle of 2012.  He looks like he has the on base abilities of Joe Mauer and perhaps similar power.  The Reds let incumbent catcher Ramon Hernandez walk after the season to make room for one of the few better catching prospects in the game, Devin Mesoroco.

So the Padres got 2 top notch prospects from the Reds in Alonso and Grandal, but they also received a stud relief prospect in Brad Boxberger.  The 23 year old right handed relief pitcher, also a former first round pick (43rd in 2009), has all the makings of a late inning reliever.  He has struck out 203 batters in 153 2/3 career innings in the minors, including 93 strikeouts in 62 innings last year split between AA and AAA.  There are some control issues – career 4.1 per 9 innings pitched in the minors, but that’s the case with a lot of hard throwing relief propects.  He has a mid-90s fastball and a slider.  This is a prospect to keep an eye on.   And he’s the 3rd best prospect in the trade.

Did I mention I love, love, love this trade for the Padres?  I’m not sure what this means for Anthony Rizzo’s, Kyle Blanks’, or even Jesus Guzman’s respective futures with the Padres.  There are still rumors of Chase Headley trades floating around, too, so perhaps one or more of them could be included to sweeten the pot in a deal involving Headley.   The Padres already had a top notch system, and now they get to add all of this talent.  This is fun and exciting stuff for prospect followers!

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7 Responses to “The Matt Latos Trade”

  1. TT December 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    What makes Alonso better than Parmelee? He has yet to hit more than 15 home runs in the minor leagues. He will be 25 years old next year, a year older than Parmelee. And Parmelee has played the outfield some.

    Hard throwers who can’t find the plate are pretty common. Boxberger has an upside, but most guys with his profile never make it.

    Grandal is probably the best of the these guys because he is reported to be a plus defender. But any comparison to Mauer is ridiculous. Grandal spent most of the year in A ball at an age when Mauer was already a major league regular.

    This looks like three decent prospects for a young major league ace. If two of them work out they will come out of it all right. But none of these guys project to be as good a player as the guy they gave up.

  2. mini_tb December 17, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    Statistically, Matt Latos looks like a bona fide #1 or #2 starter. 3 of the 4 are prospects the Padres traded for are unproven in the majors. No one is arguing either point. You can’t deny that the upside of all 3 is very exciting for a rebuilding team like the Padres.

    If you want to call Parmelee an outfielder based on how he was drafted, then go ahead. Parmelee and Alonso are not outfielders. Their offensive numbers are actually not that far apart. I guess I may have been exaggerrating on the Parmelee comment a bit. Then again, Parmelee has stepped to the plate nearly twice as much in his professional career as Alonso and put up lesser numbers.

    Competent defensive switch hitting catchers with .100 isolated disciplines certainly don’t grow on trees. I certainly didn’t say Grandal is as good as Joe Mauer. I was merely stating how much I loved combination of a high batting average and isolated disciplne.

    And Boxberger looks like he has enough control to be at least a serviceable major league reliever. This isn’t Billy Bullock we’re talking about.

  3. TT December 17, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    I didn’t realize either how little Parmelee actually played the outfield last year or that Alonso had played the outfield at all. But I wasn’t really suggesting Parmelee was going to play much outfield in the major leagues.

    In general I think in trades of quantity for quality, quality wins. That is true even if you are trading present value for future value. In this case, Matt Latos is younger than some of the players the Padres got in return. I don’t think any of those players have even the potential for the impact that you can expect from Latos.

  4. thrylos98 December 18, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    I watched Parmelee play RF in Spring Training. It was brutal. Brian Buscher playing 3B-brutal. No way. He makes Kubel look like Revere out there.

    That trade was a steal for the Padres any way you measure it (not sure about how it will pan out in 2012, btw, but if Volquez gets his act together at Petco…) The Reds want to contend next year and they are going all out. Plus the 2 stud prospects were blocked for many years. This kinda makes me even sadder when I re-think the Matt Capps trade…

  5. theringerreport December 18, 2011 at 4:06 am #

    Both teams win, Cincy now, San Diego later.

    The Reds probably only have 2 years left of Joey Votto, so in a weak year for the NL Central, the addition of Latos gives the Reds their best chance at a division title and maybe more.

    The Padres will benefit from all these prospects in the long run, whether directly or using them to bait pitching prospects to even out the team.

    Latos will have much better run support from the Reds and Volquez will pitch in a much more pitcher-friendly ballpark. Both pitchers should benefit from the trade.

  6. TT December 18, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    “This kinda makes me even sadder when I re-think the Matt Capps trade…”

    The Reds had to give up not only a top catching prospect, but two other recent first round choices and a former all-star starter coming back from Tommy John surgery. I am not sure how that makes the Capps trade look worse.

    What I think this trade, and the analysis here, shows is that some fans who follow teams’ minor league systems place a lot more value on prospects than the baseball professionals do. The jump to the big leagues is a huge one. Whether a player will be able to make that leap is not entirely predictable.

    I think Volquez is likely done, but if he returns to his allstar performance the next couple years for the Padres then this was clearly a great trade for them. Barring that unlikely event, they are going to need two of the three prospects to turn into solid major league players to break even. If one of them turns into a star, you can call it a win.

    • mini_tb December 18, 2011 at 11:04 am #

      I hear what you are saying, TT. These are prospects, not proven commodities. There is no guarantee that any of them reach their potential.

      Latos is as proven as a 24 year old starter with 2 full years in the majors can be. He doesn’t have significantly different home/road splits like some Padres pitchers (see Aaron Harang’s 2011 season). That’s definitely a lot of cost controlled value for the Padres to give up, and he hasn’t even entered his physical prime yet. Those cost controlled years on Latos are exactly why the Reds had to pay so dearly to get him. The Padres are not ready to contend yet, nor will they contend for at least a few more years while Latos will be nearing a big payday. So why not squeeze the maximum value out of a player like Latos and trade him while his value is extremely high?

      The reason I like this trade so much for the Padres is that they received both quantity and quality in this deal. All 3 of the prospects heading to the Padres have high enough floors that they should all become at least competent big leaguers during their cost controlled years. Obviously, you want more than that as the end result of a trade for Latos, but only time will tell who got the better end of the deal. I like that the Padres’ proverbial eggs are not all in 1 basket (a la the Sox trading Sergio Santos to the Jays for Nestor Molina – not that Santos is anywhere near the same caliber of talent of Latos).

      And Volquez is probably more of a wild card than the prospects, but with a modest 2012 contract of $1.63 million, I really like him as a throw in reclamation project. He should be healthy in 2012. He should strike out a lot of hitters. The question is can he keep the ball around the plate enough to be successful? What about as a reliever? An interesting (and potentially maddening) project to say the least.

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