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On Dec. 17, 2011, the Padres traded starting pitcher Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds. In return, the Padres received:
• Yasmani Grandal, a highly-touted catcher in the Reds’ minor league system
• Yonder Alonso, a major-league-ready first baseman who was blocked in Cincinnati by Joey Votto
• Edinson Volquez, an inconsistent middle-of-the-road starting pitcher to fill Latos’ vacant spot in the Padres’ rotation and open up a spot for him in the Reds’ rotation
• Brad Boxberger, a relief pitcher in the Reds minor league system that was thought to have a future as a closer
So far, this trade has looked awfully lopsided.
The 25-year-old Latos has hit his peak, and is churning out quality starts for the Reds on a consistent basis. He is the “ace” pitcher Cincinnati had been searching for, and they hope he can be the key to them finally making it back to the World Series. Before this season, the Reds bought out Latos’ arbitration years to the tune of $11.5 million over two years. That contract looks like a relative steal with how he’s performed this season.
The Padres, on the other hand, have benefited very little from the trade.
Grandal looked great for 60 games in 2012 before getting busted for performance-enhancing drugs. In 2013, he played in just 28 games before tearing his ACL. Not only did he look like a different hitter in those 28 games, but now he could miss most of next season along with the rest of this one.
Alonso nearly broke the Padres’ record for doubles in 2012, setting himself up to be the team’s first baseman of the future. He has failed to match that output in 2013, and had spent roughly half of the season on the disabled list. It’s possible that Alonso has already lost his starting job to Tommy Medica, who has impressed since being called up from AA on Sept. 8.
Volquez drew the ire of Padres fans this season for his inconsistency and inability to throw strikes. His performance became so poor that the Padres eventually released him. He is currently serving as a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Boxberger has bounced up and down from AAA and the major league ball club quite a bit since being acquired by San Diego. He’s been consistently good, but has never really been given the chance to win the setup or closer roles with the Padres.
Two prospects who had really bad seasons in 2013, a wash-out of a pitcher and an average middle relief pitcher. That’s not much for an “ace” like Latos … but wait! Maybe the trade included more players than we thought.
On Jan. 6, 2012, less than one month after the Latos deal was completed, first baseman Anthony Rizzo was sent to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for right-handed starting pitcher Andrew Cashner. This was the logical “second part of the trade” that needed to happen once Alonso was acquired. The Padres obviously weren’t going to keep both of the young first basemen, so they shopped around and came up with Cashner as the best offer.
Cashner was a former starting pitcher who had been converted into the role of a relief pitcher due to his inability to stay healthy. Padres GM Josh Byrnes traded for him to be a relief pitcher, with a plan to convert him back to a starting pitcher in the future. The conversion started at the end of the last season and continued at the beginning of the 2013 season.
Cashner turned 27 last week, and is in the processing of capping off the best season of his young career. He has started 25 games, winning 10, and has pitched 168 innings while remaining relatively healthy. His 2.0 WAR is far and away the highest he’s ever had, and he’s improved in just about every statistical pitching category, including walks, HRs allowed and WHIP.
Ian Kennedy, whom Byrnes traded for in July 2013, is the No. 1 pitcher in the rotation, but Cashner’s raw power (his fastball gets up to 102-plus mph) arguably makes him the perfect replacement for Latos. Cashner’s potential was on full display Monday, when he came one pitch away from throwing a perfect game in what is definitely one of the best pitching performances by a Padres pitcher ever.
While you’re sitting at home this October, watching Latos pitch in meaningful games for the Reds, try to remember the 2011 trade, including the Rizzo-for-Cashner deal. It’ll make the whole ordeal much easier to swallow.