Blog Entry

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Posted on: December 17, 2011 5:18 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2011 11:54 am
Mat Latos

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Every trade happens for a reason -- or two reasons, actually. One for each side. With Saturday's big deal between the Reds and Padres, we'll look at the reasons for both sides. You can read the Padres' reasons here, but here's why the Reds sent four players to San Diego for right-hander Mat Latos:

When the Reds won the National League Central in 2010, Edinson Volquez was their starter in Game 1 of the National League division series against the Phillies against Roy Halladay. Halladay, of course, no-hit the Reds that night, while Volquez was lifted before the end of the second inning, having allowed four earned runs and was saddled with the loss. The need for a true No. 1 was evident even before that game, but became more dire afterward.

In 2011, Johnny Cueto took a step forward and showed he may be the future ace the team needed. But it still needed a No. 2 -- enter Latos. The 24-year-old went 14-10 in 2010 with a 2.92 ERA and was a Cy Young candidate in 2010. He took a bit of a step back in 2011, going 9-14 with a 3.47, with his walk rate increasing by half a walk per nine innings and his stirkeout rate dropping just a tad more than that. 

Saturday, Latos said he learned from his 2011 to trust himself and not worry about where he was pitching or who he was pitching against. The results show someone who may have learned, going 5-10 with a 4.04 ERA in the first half of the season and 4-4 with a 2.87 ERA in the second half, and bettering his strikeout-to-walk ration from 2.45 before the All-Star break and 3.83 afterward. Opponents' batting average on balls in play dropped dramatically from .314 to .258 in the second half, but his strikeouts also increased. 

Devin MesoracoReds general manager Walt Jocketty said he felt Latos could pitch in Great American Ball Park, which is about as different from the pitcher-friendly Petco Park as you can get.

There's no question that Latos improves the Reds' rotation, joining Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey -- as well as Aroldis Chapman, who will be used as a starter in spring training, at least. But that's not the only reason the Reds made the move.

First of all, Latos will be a Red for years to come. He's under team control through 2015 and isn't arbitration eligible until the 2013 season. He's also just 24, having celebrated his 24th birthday little more than a week ago.

By dealing Alonso and Volquez, the Reds now have more money to play with in free agency or to take on salary. Alonso signed a big-league deal after being drafted and is due $1 million in 2012, while Volquez is arbitration-eligible and could make as much as $2.5 million next season, while paying Latos at or near the minimum.

Like Alonso, Yasmani Grandal signed a big-league deal after he was drafted, so the net move is two more spots on the team's 40-man roster.

"We've got some things on the back burner and the front burner," Jocketty said. "We're trying to do one more deal for pitching and we're looking at potential free agents for offense."

The roster spots and money cleared give the Reds a little more room to make those kinds of deals. They do have fewer prospects, though. The Reds still need a closer (or could use Chapman) and are looking to upgrade their left field options.

Alonso, Grandal and reliever Brad Boxberger were all ranked as top 10 prospects in the Reds system for 2012 by Baseball America. It's a heck of a haul for the Padres. That said, the top two prospects -- Alonso and Grandal -- at least, were redundant to the Reds. 

Alonso is the team's top prospect at first base, but the Reds already have an MVP at first base -- or at least they do for the next two seasons before Joey Votto becomes a free agent. He tried to play left field, but not too many in the Reds organization felt he could actually do it.

And then there's Grandal, the team's top pick in the 2010 draft. The switch-hitting catcher was rated the fourth-best prospect in the Reds' system, but the second-best catcher behind Devin Mesoraco (pictured). The Reds allowed Ramon Hernandez to exit via free agency because Mesoraco no longer has anything to prove at the minor-league level and can team with Ryan Hanigan as a solid catching tandem for the next couple of years. Hanigan, a very good defensive catcher with a good on-base percentage, is under team control through 2014.

While Boxberger is seen as a possible closer, he's still a reliever, and a Triple-A one at that. Jocketty said without Boxberger the deal probably wouldn't get done, and if the Reds really wanted to get Latos, Boxberger wasn't going to stand in the way.

And then there's Volquez. The Reds sent Volquez to Triple-A twice in 2011 to try to get his control issues straightened out, but he never seemed to get it fixed. Voqluez wasn't being counted on in the rotation and didn't really have a place on the roster -- and could cost some money.

There's no doubt the Reds paid dearly -- more than one front-office person told me the Reds grossly overpaid and I tend to agree -- but Jocketty dealt from positions of depth. The deal could hurt the Reds, but losing those players may not hurt them as much as it would another team. The 2012 Reds are better today than they were Friday. With Votto's time in Cincinnati apparently closing in on its last two years, the Reds wanted to make a play in the National League Central that no longer has Albert Pujols, may not have Ryan Braun for 50 games and could still lose Prince Fielder, and they did that by adding Latos.

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Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:00 am

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Oh, and kudos to Walt on the trade.  Other than adding Boxberger, he did very well.  I would like to have kept Boxberger.  That said, the Padres could come out well, or they could be looking back in 2014 and asking "where did all those studs go?" after they're out of baseball or playing for the league minimum in Houston.

About 90% of "stud prospects" never make any serious contribution or even sniff an all-star team.  It seems a few too many Reds fans think Alonso and Grandal are already HOF bound.  I would wait till they even manage an average year before 2016 before stating they're even starter quality, much less a possible all-star.  

Besides, for those of you bemoaning losing Votto in 3 years (good possibility), remember, we can trade him for some stud prospects of our own...maybe even Yonder Alonso, who by then may well be a bust and just a throw in.

As for the Reds, please let Heisey play and stop this quest for a broken-down, overpaid LF.  As for closer, go with a solid setup man from another team or free agent or our own MLB/AAA teams before signing any overpriced closer...especially avoid Cordero if it is more than two year deal and more than $4 million per season.


Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:53 am

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

This single reason the Reds will never get past an occasional Div title is simple.  Getting pitching in a park that gives up more HR's than almost any other is as stupid as the folks that think Jockitty is a deal maker. 
Uh, so you think a Halladay, Lincecum, Sabathia, Cliff Lee type of rotation would suck in Cincy and mean last place for them?  I get so tired of hearing you need hitting and not pitching in a hitters park.  If you play baseball (any team, from t-ball to MLB) you need BOTH to EVER win ANYTHING.  The Reds have PLENTY of offense, but in my entire lifetime, they have NEVER had good enough pitching outside of Rijo and a few other spot seasons of goodness. If I could trade Votto, Bruce and Phillips for Halladay, Hamels and Cliff Lee, I would do it in a heartbeat.  You can find decent hitting, but the Reds can't EVER find decent pitching.

Halladay would be a 20 game winning, 2.30 ERA pitching stud, even if all 35 starts or so were in GABP.  All GABP means for a GOOD pitcher, is a few more HRs (3 or 4 maybe) all year long...that's it.  The reason the Reds pitching sucks is not a small park, it is they can throw strikes and when they do, it is straight and hittable.  

Stop this asinine argument that a hitters park means you should forsake a starting rotation, which we ALL know is the key to winning in the post-season, not a bunch of .300 hitters who go 0 fer 20 in the post-season against a good starter (see the Reds versus Phillies in 2010 for a good lesson in what pitching means versus your beloved offense).


Since: Sep 29, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2011 6:36 am

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Pretty sure walks hurt just as bad at PETCO as they do at GABP.  Until Volquez remembers how to throw strikes, you can forget him ever matching up with Mat Latos.  And Yonder?  Before the trade, he apparently wasn't worth a Wade Davis even up.  Now it seems everyone wants to put him in the hall of fame after 45 games in the bigs.  Grandal is the best piece gotten by the Padres, and he'll make an All-Star game or two.  But more than likely, he'll be the 2nd NL catcher at the AS game, behind one Devin Mesoraco.  How can a team lose a trade, on paper, when they gave up next to nothing in terms of big league production and gained - at worst - a #2 starter for the next 4 years?

Since: Aug 20, 2008
Posted on: December 19, 2011 8:17 pm

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Jocketty...making our GM look good.  Trading for a Padres pitcher is like trading for a Rockies hitter...stupid.  Unless they get to bring their park with them they are destined to underperform.  Sure you can argue the Alonso was blocked by Votto so the Reds didnt need him, and Volquez has control problems along with being something of a head case, but both have at least as much, if not more, talent than Latos.  As far as trading redundancy, well it isnt "redundant" until a prospect turns into a pro.  If not Homer Bailey would be anchoring the Reds rotation instead of being a AAAA pitcher.  So in short the Reds traded 4 for 1 and the 1 isnt likely to be better than average pitching at Great American.  Great job by the Padres to land a 1B who can hit for average, a pitcher with electric stuff who should benefit immensly from the move to PETCO, a potential closer in a bullpen that is still strong and C of the future.  Funny how the cheapest teams seem to make the best trades.

Since: Dec 7, 2008
Posted on: December 19, 2011 7:42 pm

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

This single reason the Reds will never get past an occasional Div title is simple.  Getting pitching in a park that gives up more HR's than almost any other is as stupid as the folks that think Jockitty is a deal maker.  This is a nice trade in terms of getting a young pitcher but why do you think this will do anything but get his era a little higher than before.  This team needs to be built for power and the Reds build it for speed, defense and pitching?  Oh, my god how stupid is that.  Other than Selig thinking baseball is back, when 10-12 teams will be the only ones to ever compete, the Reds organization is mental.  It sickens me to see the media to not ask the questions to Walt and the Reds.

Why do you not put players on the field that can blast the ball out of the ball park, when the teams that beat you do exactly that?  The Reds will never be a World Series Champion in a long time. 

Since: Jul 27, 2011
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:28 pm

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Once again the Padres give up a fan favorite 'to get better'. I suppose if you set up the team to lose 100 games now you will look like a genius in the future. Padre fans need to remember that any profit the team makes has to be used to continue to buy the team from John Moores. There is no desire to improve anything except profit. This team will have so many guys making league and/or veteran minimum it will be hilarious. Anytime your 'best' hitter only drives in 50 runs you know you are a joke. Here's to another year in the cellar. It least when they finish last, they can keep telling us how they are improving the farm system through the draft. With any luck at all they can be the next Pittsburgh Pirates.

Since: Nov 27, 2007
Posted on: December 19, 2011 11:17 am

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Not sure this is the best move for the Reds.  I certainly think they seriously overpaid for the talent they got.  I think this one will come back and bite them.  They still havent' addressed their left field problem.

Since: Mar 5, 2010
Posted on: December 19, 2011 10:00 am

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Dumb trade by the Reds...period. They gave too much for a pitcher that they aren't really sure about. Yonder Alonso is a guy that I wouldn't part with unless I was getting a pitcher that is a little more secure as a front-end starter. Big gamble and a stupid trade. What happens if Edinson Volquez somehow finds the ability to have a good season without the PEDs? That would make this deal a big loss. Padres seem to have secured the better deal here. It would take alot for them to have loss this one.

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: December 18, 2011 7:25 pm

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Volquez was juicing, proven by his failed drug test, and as a result is not really a good starter. The Pads got jipped on this deal unless one of those 3 minor leaguers becomes something decent.

Since: Aug 21, 2008
Posted on: December 18, 2011 7:19 pm

Why the Reds traded for Mat Latos

Dude I tend to agree with you. But take Stubbs and Arroyo off the list. Stubbs is horrible, the white Corey Patterson. And Arroyo is done. He will never be a strong link in our rotation. I would have LOVED to see Stubbs go and they cut Arroyo. I say get a bat in free agency and let Heisey play for Pete's sake.

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