The reconstruction of the San Diego Padres resumed in earnest Saturday morning when they traded 24-year-old right-hander Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds in return for four players – first baseman Yonder Alonso, right-hander Edinson Volquez and two well-regarded prospects, catcher Yasmani Grandal and right-hander Brad Boxberger.
It is the biggest trade by any team this offseason and is a huge haul for new Padres general manager Josh Byrnes in a market in which the Oakland A's, Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays also are shopping high-end pitching.
The Reds paid dearly for Latos, who has the tools to be an ace, as evidenced by his 14 wins and 2.92 ERA for the Padres in 2010, when he was just 22. A slight regression in 2011 – a 9-14 record, downturns in WHIP, strikeouts and walks – along with a reputation for occasional immature outbursts, appeared not to bother Reds GM Walt Jocketty, who sought more pitching for the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. The Reds did not pitch as well – as a staff or a rotation – in 2011 as they did in 2010, when they won the NL Central.
Three of the players the Padres acquired – Alonso, Grandal and Boxberger – were first-round picks for the Reds.
Jocketty cited Latos' "97-mph fastball" (fangraphs.com has its average closer to 93 mph), ability to pitch deep into games (he averaged 6 1/3 innings per start) and strikeout stuff as reasons he parted with four players.
A young, power pitcher of Latos' talent, Jocketty said, "Does not come around very often."
He granted the cost was high.
"That's why this was a difficult decision," he said. "It's consumed most of my time, energy and thoughts" over the past two weeks.
"We just felt in the end it was something we had to do," he added.
The Reds remain in the market for pitching and a left fielder.
The Padres, in the meantime, add three young players with great potential along with Volquez, now three years removed from his 17-win season and a bit of a mystery.
Alonso, 24, becomes the Padres' regular first baseman. He batted .330 in 47 games for the Reds in 2011, primarily while learning how to play left field. He'll return to his native position in San Diego.
Grandal is a switch-hitting catcher who is close to big-league ready and Boxberger has been a starter and reliever and projects for some as a closer.
"We've added four credentialed young players who can help us win in the short and long term," Byrnes said in a statement.
While Latos should give the Reds immediate help, the Padres appear to have gotten the better end of the deal, and perhaps speaks to what the A's (Gio Gonzalez), White Sox (John Danks, Gavin Floyd) and Rays (James Shields) expect in return for their starting pitching.
The biggest trade this offseason had been the A's sending starter Trevor Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow to the Diamondbacks for pitcher Jarrod Parker, outfielder Collin Cowgill and minor league reliever Ryan Cook.
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