Rangers Repercussions: The Mat Latos Trade
Earlier today, the Cincinnati Reds traded a four-player package for Mat Latos, the San Diego Padres ace. Although the trade involves two teams the Rangers will not have to face next season, the league-wide market for starting pitchers obtainable through trade has been significantly affected.
The Rangers have been linked with front of the rotation starters of similar ability to Latos, such as Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, Matt Garza and James Shields in trade discussions, so it’s worthwhile to consider how the Latos trade impacts those negotiations.
First, let’s compare Latos with the Rangers trade targets. Even though the Rangers have also been linked with Wade Davis, I’m leaving him out of this because he wouldn’t front the rotation.
Gio Gonzalez: Age 26 8.59 K/9 4.44 BB/9 47.5% GB rate 4.06 FIP
John Danks: Age 26 7.13 K/9 2.70 BB/9 43.8% GB rate 4.14 FIP
James Shields: Age 29 7.53 K/9 2.07 BB/9 43.8% GB rate 3.91 FIP
Matt Garza: Age 28 7.50 K/9 3.11 BB/9 41.0% GB rate 3.98 FIP
Mat Latos: Age 23 8.65 K/9 2.83 BB/9 42.8% GB rate 3.28 FIP
Although Latos is under team control for a couple more years than the rest of the bunch, and has the better statistical profile, his year-to-year performance has been trending in the wrong direction, unlike every other pitcher on this list. Additionally, he has been reported as having “maturity issues”. He also has less of a “resume”, having only pitched for two years. Keeping all that in mind, I would characterize Latos is close enough in value that we can evaluate what it took to get him and see how that compares to what the Rangers have in the minor leagues.
Here’s what the Padres got for Latos:
–Edinson Volquez– A Major League starting pitcher, who had a great year in 2008, an injury and PED suspension limited 2009 and 2010, and then a pretty horrible year in 2011. Last season Volquez suffered from an enormous BB/9 of 5.38 and a league-worst 20.7 HR/FB%. However, he has managed to maintain an excellent K/9 of 8.67 and a good GB% throughout his career, suggesting a possible move to the bullpen.
–Yonder Alonso– 24 year old 1B who made a name for himself by mashing to the tune of a .409 wOBA in 98 PA during a late-season callup. Although he was no doubt greatly helped by an unsustainable BABIP of .387, his BABIP in AAA was around .330 through nearly 900 PA.
–Yasmani Grandal-23 year old C prospect who, according to Baseball America, projects to be an above-average offensive catcher with solid defense. In 2011 he made the transition from High-A to AA smoothly, and played so well that he earned a brief AAA callup.
–Brad Boxberger– a relief pitcher whose struggles with control manifest themselves in a 4.88 BB/9 in AAA. However, he is able to maintain a decent performance with a 11.71 K/9 in AAA, and is expected to contribute in the major leagues this coming season.
All in all, an excellent haul. For comparisons sake, the Rangers equivalent to this trade would almost certainly involve:
1. Mike Olt, the Ranger’s best position player that isn’t “untouchable” (the way Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin are).
2. Probably one of Miguel De Los Santos, Tanner Scheppers, Luke Jackson, Barret Loux or some other relief prospect.
3. A second position player that is somewhat worse than Olt, but still close. Probably something like Christian Villanueva, Jorge Alfaro, or Jake Skole.
4. I would guess that Edinson Volquez was thrown in as a wild card here, so I’m not really sure what Major League piece the Rangers could toss in. Someone like David Murphy could probably ease the burden on the prospects side of the equation, since he clearly has value left to contribute. Julio Borbon might also play a role here, since the combination of Craig Gentry and Martin makes him somewhat redundant. I could also see an excess reliever who might enjoy a change of scenery, like Mark Lowe.
I think it’s fair to say that would be a significant prospect investment for a pitcher who ultimately might not prove to be the long-term “ace” starter the Rangers are after. The asking price for a TORP appears to be quite high; many media and league executive reactions favored the trade from the Padres perspective. In my opinion, the trade was a huge prospect commitment, but Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal were blocked at the Major League level by Joey Votto and Devin Mesoraco, respectively. However, given that Olt is blocked by Beltre and the Rangers have an excellent farm system with a variety of relief arms, I could see a similar “deal from strength” strategy that the Reds adopted.