A head scratcher in Cincinnati

Photo courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com. The Cincinnati Reds just made a major move in picking up Mat Latos (pictured above) in a blockbuster trade with the San Diego Padres. Will the young right-hander live up to the hype in Cincinnati?

By Josh Kramer

I am well aware that being a general manager or the owner of a professional sports franchise is no easy task.  Granted I cannot speak from personal experience, but I can only imagine the difficulties of the job.  The majority of professional sports teams have millions of fans, that live and die on every move their respective team makes.  But today, my beloved Cincinnati Reds made their biggest move of the offseason and it has me scratching my head.

Trade Logistics:

San Diego Padres (Get):  Edinson Volquez (RHP), Yonder Alonso (1B), Yasmani Grandal (C), Brad Boxberger (RHP)

Cincinnati Reds (Get):  Mat Latos (RHP)

Now the MLB does not have a hard salary cap.  It doesn’t even have a soft salary cap.  Sure they have a luxury tax that teams like the Yankees and the Red Sox must pay every year.  But nothing was stopping the Los Angeles Angels from spending 331.5 million dollars in one day (Angels had the 8th highest payroll in the MLB in 2010).  Or the Miami Marlins from going out and nabbing both Heath Bell and Jose Reyes in the same week (Florida had the 26th highest payroll in the MLB in 2010).

Now this trade to me is a prime example of why the Cincinnati Reds are not ready, and will not be ready for some time to contend for a World Series.  There is no question that the Reds have something good brewing in Cincinnati.  Coming off their first divisional title since 1995, many considered the Reds the favorite to win the NL Central in 2011.  It didn’t happen for a plethora of reasons.  Sadly, the Reds won just 79 games last year despite having a very talented team.

Now I am not oblivious to the fact that the Reds are a middle-market team.  I realize that they will never have a 200 million dollar payroll like the New York Yankees.  Cincinnati is typically in the 70 to 75 million dollar payroll range.  And this is fine.  Teams like the Yankees are able to spend much more money for numerous reasons.  They are in a huge market.  They have a massive regional cable network (YES).  And they are of course the Yankees.

Today’s move by the Reds though just seems preposterous on so many levels (I hope I am wrong).  Sure Edinson Volquez has struggled to live up to the hype since the second half of 2008.  Boy I wish we could turn the clocks back to December 21, 2007. And I also realize that we have Joey Votto (likely for just two more years).  But why get rid of two of our top prospects in Alonso and Grandal?  Jocketty better be sure that Mesoraco is going to play out as this teams catcher for years to come.  Four players, including two of our top prospects and a former All-Star is an extraordinarily steep price to pay for a pitcher who went 9 and 14 last season.  A pitcher who is just 24-years-old and already struggling with shoulder issues.

Now I am by no means naive enough to think that wins/losses is the only stat or even the most important stat to look at when evaluating a pitcher.  Latos had a 3.47 ERA last year, which is very respectable.  Plus he had an outstanding 2.92 ERA in 2009.  He also is still very young.  With just a little over two full years under his belt, this youngster has never thrown more than 200 innings in a season (we hope he goes over 200 every year in Cincinnati).  In addition, both his WHIP (Walks plus hits per innings pitched) and strikeout-to-walk ratios are very respectable.  This kid has stellar potential.  But he also is not completely proven as a top of the rotation type of guy, and already has shoulder problems.

It is no mystery that Cincinnati’s single biggest problem last season was their pitching.  More specifically, the lack of consistency at the top of the rotation.  With the 12th ranked ERA in the National League, it is safe to say that pitching was Cincinnati’s achilles heel in 2011.  In addition, only one guy on the staff had more than nine wins (Latos win total in 2011) last year.  Plus Latos had 67 more strikeouts in 2011 than any pitcher on the Reds roster.  This guy brings a lot of things to the table and potentially could be half of a phenomenal Cueto/Latos duo.

With all of that being said, Walt Jocketty has been a great GM since he arrived in Cincinnati.  He has done everything he has said he would do and more.  He truly has the “Win Now” mentality which we all crave in Cincinnati.  I do think he got a little trigger happy on this deal though.  It seems to me Jocketty panicked a bit, and made a deal without fully thinking it through.  I hope I am wrong, but tonight I am scratching my head.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

13 responses to “A head scratcher in Cincinnati

  1. Gooch from The Bronx

    I have to disagree Kraze. If Latos shoulder is good, and I would hope the Reds checked that out thoroughly before they made the deal, I believe they filled a very important need. You cannot win without pitching and the Reds were badly in need of it. Mesoraco has to step up and with Votto here for at least 2 more years, I think the Reds have a chance to win immediately. Don’t forget Albert is gone from the Cards and Braun may be suspended 50 games from the Brewers. This may be the move the Reds need to win now.

    • Gooch,
      I agree with your sentiment. The Reds are in desperate need of a top of the rotation guy and with the recent events in the NL Central, this may be the year to make a run. But a 24-year-old with shoulder problems is never a good sign for one. In addition, this guy went 9 and 14 last year. I know his team was awful, but that is a far less than stellar record.

      I hope I am wrong. I really hope this guy can be our number one for a good decade, which I am sure Jocketty’s hope was.

      -TheSportsKraze

  2. But, I believe the Reds won this deal in the short term. Everyone knows they can hit but Latos will certainly help the rotation that also has Cueto and Bailey.

    You mentioned not pitching over 200 innings, Volquez hasn’t yet either and he’s pitched 7 seasons in the major’s, albeit most were shortened by minor league stints or injury (another thing you mentioned about Latos).

    This is a weak year for the NL Central and this trade gives the Reds a good 2 years (before probably losing Votto) to win the Division and give a WS a legitimate chance.

    • Theringerreport,
      The Reds did win this deal for the short-term without question. Unless Latos ends up not being healthy, which is a possibility. The Reds will have to strike fast during the “Votto Window” though (next two years). I am not upset about Volquez getting traded. I just don’t feel it was necessary to get rid of both Grandal and Alonso. One or the other should have sufficed.

      -TheSportsKraze

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  4. Does trading Alonso mean they might try to sign Votto down the road?

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