Monday, December 16, 2013

Reexamining the Mat Latos trade a full two years later

On Dec. 17, 2011, the Reds acquired SP Mat Latos from the Padres in exchange for 1B Yonder Alonso, SP Edinson Volquez, and prospects RP Brad Boxberger and C Yasmani Grandal. Initial reactions of the trade were expectantly mixed among fans and media alike, with one media member and former club general manager calling it "The most lopsided trade I've witnessed in recent memory as the Padres swindle the Reds in the 5-player trade that lands Mat Latos in Cinci." Locally, beat writers John Fay and Mark Sheldon both went on the record as saying they believed the Reds gave up too much for Latos, too.

Now, a full two years later after the trade was executed, we can once again revisit the swap to see which side has profited the most. Of course, two years isn't enough to close the book completely on a deal such as this one. That book will continue to be open until every player included in the trade nears the end of their career or retires. But after witnessing two full seasons of what has transpired, we can finally begin to accurately tabulate which team won the upper hand.

On paper, it sure appears like Cincinnati's confidence in Latos has paid off. The 26-year-old has turned in two very solid seasons so far for the Reds and has emerged as the unofficial ace and go-to pitcher on the staff. The right-hander has tallied a combined 28-11 record, 3.32 ERA, 3.05 K/BB, and 8.1 WAR over that span. He has made at least 32 starts and gone over the 200-inning plateau in each season, providing the durability, grit, and competitive fire the Reds were hoping for when they added him.

Furthermore, the Reds have been the beneficiaries of this production at a relatively cheap price. Cincinnati paid just $550,000 for his services in 2012 and $4.25 million in 2013. While that may seem like a lot to the average joe, considering the value he has given the Reds, it's an undeniable bargain. And although his salary is projected to balloon over $7 million come 2014, Latos remains under team control through the end of the 2015 campaign, at which point he can pursue free agency if he chooses.

Meanwhile, the Padres have seen a mixed bag of results with their end of the exchange. Volquez produced a respectable showing in his first season with the club (11-11, 4.14 ERA, 182.2 IP), but his propensity for walking batters, which Reds fans had grown annoyed of, began to hurt him dearly in 2013. In August, tired of Volquez's inability to throw strikes and get hitters out, the Padres released the Dominican native. The Dodgers signed Volquez a day later and got some use out of him before granting him his free agency in October. Last week, the Pirates inked the 30-year-old veteran to a one-year, $5 million contract. All in all, San Diego received 59 starts from Volquez, resulting in a 20-21 record, 4.96 ERA, and -1.5 WAR. When the Padres could bear no more, they essentially parted ways with Volquez and received nothing else in return.

Alonso has been arguably the best product of this trade for the Friars. The native Cuban has slugged .276/.345/.384 in two seasons on the West Coast. However, he has produced just 15 home runs and 107 RBI in 252 games played, which is slim production from a position expected to provide ample offense. In fairness, Alonso's 2013 season was shortened to just 97 games due to injury. At age 27, Alonso still has plenty of time to emerge as an everyday star, though.

The jury is still very much out on Grandal. The switch-hitting backstop has shown flashes of brilliance when he has been healthy enough to be on the field. But Grandal didn't help his cause in Nov. 2012 when MLB suspended him for 50 games for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Grandal did not appeal and served his suspension at the beginning of 2013. In July, a short time after returning from his suspension, Grandal suffered a horrific knee injury in a game, which an MRI revealed caused significant damage to his ACL and MCL. The knee injury prematurely ended Grandal's season and could delay his return for 2014 as well. To date, Grandal has posted a .271/.380/.429 slash with nine home runs and 45 RBI in 88 games for San Diego.

Boxberger was once heralded as the possible successor of Francisco Cordero at closer. But the Reds opted to go with Aroldis Chapman and ship the California native back to his home state, instead. In two years with the Friars, Boxberger has notched a 2.72 ERA and 10.3 SO/9 in 42 appearances. Most of his time, though, has spent at Triple-A Tuscon, where the right-hander has pitched in 79 games and recorded 10 saves and an ERA just south of 3.25. At just 26-years-old, similar to the rest of the players involved in this trade, Boxberger has plenty of time to establish himself as a reliable reliever in the major leagues. And his recent track record suggests he could very well be on his way to latching onto a permanent spot in the Padres bullpen.

All things considered, it goes without question that Latos has been the crown jewel of this trade. The Reds have benefited greatly by having Latos' arm in the starting rotation. On the other hand, the Padres have benefited as well. Sure, maybe not as much as the Reds, but they did receive one modest year out of Volquez, and assuming Grandal can recover and stay out of trouble, the outlook seems good of them receiving productive seasons from the three other players in the future, too. But as I alluded to earlier in this post, time will be the ultimate variable to reveal the true value of this trade for both teams. As it stands now, both the Padres and Reds have profited to some degree, however, it's safe to award the Reds as the winners in the short term.


Tony Mac said...

In my opinion, one good reason why Walt Jocketty is an intelligent GM!

Tennessee Tim said...

That is why qualified individuals control the trading process and others just sit back and criticize the deals...

Anonymous said...

Reds did good on the trade to get mat to cincy

Anonymous said...

Did good on trade