|Photo taken by SD Dirk on Flickr|
Cincinnati's end is quicker to write about, so I'll start there. Latos is a 24-year-old budding star. He's already good, and is young enough to think that he might become great. The mid-90s heat and 6'6" frame Latos possesses certainly make it easy to dream of greatness. Still, even if Latos is a finished product, he's an upgrade for Cincinnati. He is a bona fide top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
I doubt the Padres really wanted to give up Latos, but this was a trade they couldn't refuse.
Edinson Volquez is not as good as Mat Latos at this point, but he's got a chance to rebound in San Diego. He was a rebound candidate anyway. There's no getting around that Volquez hasn't been the same pitcher that busted out in 2008, but he is still just 28 years old, and his stats give reasons to believe a solid pitcher still lurks inside of him. Volquez's 5.71 ERA last season is very hard to stomach, but a shocking 20.7% of fly balls hit against him went for home runs. That's double the general league average, and double his career rate. That number was set to drastically sink in 2012 already, and factor in a move from The Great American Ballpark to Petco, and the home run rate could plummet. If Volquez can stay healthy, and log 150 innings or so, he will re-emerge as a good starter.
This trade certainly clouded the situation at first base in San Diego. Anthony Rizzo was a coveted prospect in the Adrian Gonzalez trade just a year ago, and he ought to still be a coveted prospect (even with his struggles in the majors this past season). The strength of his game is a powerful stroke, which is the prototypical tool teams like to find in a first baseman.
However, Petco Park is death to power hitters of all shapes and sizes. Personally, I think Alonso's game is built well for Petco, and the Padres are better with him at first base. Alonso has great plate discipline (which plays anywhere), and he projects to have good gap power, but not necessarily lots of home runs. Petco has spacious gaps, so doubles shouldn't be an issue. Home runs are the problem. Alonso will have fewer dingers in Petco, just like any hitter, but his game isn't much about home runs anyway. His offensive numbers shouldn't be suppressed as much by Petco's dimensions as other hitters, such as Rizzo. Ultimately, I think Rizzo went on the trading block today, and I'm curious to see what the Padres get in return for him.
Yasmani Grandal is one of the most underrated prospects in baseball. He's a switch-hitting catcher with a great idea of the strike zone, and some intriguing power. Legitimately quality hitters that can also catch are rare. One of the biggest reasons he has stayed a bit under the radar is because the Reds have Devin Mesoraco, whom many see as the best catching prospect in baseball, in their system. Grandal also doesn't have one tool that pops out at you, but rather a variety of likable skills at a premium.
Brad Boxberger is a power arm with marginal control. He moved to the bullpen last year, and progressed rapidly through the minors. He'll be as good as his fastball command. Boxberger's arm makes him an intriguing final piece, particularly for a team that traded away Mike Adams, and lost Heath Bell in free agency.
As a general rule of thumb, I say 4-for-1 swaps like these favor the team getting the 1 player. These trades are the quality-for-quantity type, and it takes multiple quality players to be a great team, not multiple decent ones. In this deal, the Reds acquired quality, and dealt away the starting pitcher replaced by Latos, a first baseman blocked by Joey Votto, a catcher blocked by Devin Mesoraco, and a bullpen prospect. They dealt from their positions of strength to bolster an area of weakness.
However, I actually like San Diego's end better. Their ballpark is good at masking pitching deficiencies, so their staff will live on without Latos. In fact, I like Volquez's chances to do a surprisingly nice job for them. More than that, the Padres acquired a first baseman and catcher for their future, and could potentially pick up more pieces for the future with a Rizzo trade (plus maybe even some more pieces in return for a revitalized Volquez at the trade deadline). Usually, when a team acquires quantity, they don't get the quality that the Padres acquired. That's the difference with this deal.
Padres GM Josh Byrnes just put his stamp on the franchise, and it will be interesting to see what else he does this offseason. While trading Latos must have been difficult, he clearly did a great job reading the market.
On a more local note, the Latos trade is good news for Mariners fans. The Mariners have several talented young pitchers, and might one day in the near future be demanding a package of talent like this one. If a package like the one San Diego just received is also available for a guy like Michael Pineda, I would listen. In fact, I'm so intrigued that I might go and try to build some hypothetical trades right now...