Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 12/17/11

The San Diego Padres are an incomplete team.  They’ve lost Heath Bell, Mike Adams and Adrian Gonzalez all within the last year and lack the start power to remain anything but an after-thought in an already weak NL West.  Their General Manager left the first chance he had for Chicago, and their minor league system wasn’t blossoming with young talent in the same way that other struggling major league teams with a small payroll have.  The Padres only saving grace, they have a hell of a coach, and a starting rotation lead by Mat Latos that put up numbers that most playoff bound teams would kill for.  As of 10:34 PST the Padres don’t even have that.  Mat Latos was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in return for a haul of prospects/players unseen since the Dan Haren deal of 2007.

In return for their young controllable ace, the Padres have acquired top slugging 1B/OF Yonder Alonso, elite catching prospect and former 1st round pick Yasmani Grandal, former all-star starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, and Brad Boxberger, a reliever with the look of a future closer.  In other words, the Padres just got the steal of the century.  For a team with as many holes as the Padres have, Mat Latos simply wouldn’t have made a difference.  Sure, ace starting pitchers that are under team control for another four years don’t exactly grow on trees, but neither does the collection of talent San Diego brought in. In Mark's ranking of the Reds' top ten prospects, Alonso and Grandal were ranked as "outstanding".

Perhaps the Reds are seeing their last chance to take another NL Central crown.  All signs point toward Prince Fielder leaving Milwaukee and Ryan Braun may serve a 50-game suspension for the Brewers.  The Cardinals just lost one of the elite hitters of this generation in Albert Pujols and must now find a way to navigate their way back to the playoffs without their trademark fearsome slugger. The Reds didn’t lose any essential personnel in this deal and are stronger in 2012 for pulling the trigger.  2011 was an up and down year for the young fire-baller Mat Latos.  While his 3.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP are certainly not numbers to scoff at, Latos is capable of posting considerably better numbers.  Mat struggled in the first half and his numbers weren’t exactly ace-like on the road (3.68 ERA), but his saving grace is that in the second half of last year his 2.87 ERA was tops among Padres pitchers and would look awfully good on a team making it’s playoff run. 

Edinson Volquez still has the look of an ace and if any coach/pitching environment can resurrect the all-star as a staff ace, it would be Bud Black and Petco Park.  Yonder Alonso has never hit lower than .290 anywhere in the minors and has a beautiful lefty swing that generates enough power to drive balls into the gaps and over fences with consistency. It will be interesting to see where the Padres decide to play him though, as his outfield defense could be best described as "an adventure". Yasmani Grandal is one of the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues and possibly the best hitting catcher as well. In his first fullseason in the minors, Grandal hit .305/.401 with 31 doubles and 14 homeruns across the three highest levels in the minors. It may not be long before he’s gracing the National League all-star team with his services. He was blocked in the Reds' system by Devin Mesoraco, an equally talented catching prospect who also appears ready for the majors. Brad Boxberger accumulated a 2.03 ERA across AA and AAA last year with an eye-popping 0.93 WHIP and 13.5 K/9.

The Padres find themselves with a future lineup that features Kyle Blanks, Anthony Rizzo, and plethora of first round picks including Reymond Fuentes, Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Cameron Maybin and Cory Spangenberg.  Their future rotation includes notable pitching prospects such as Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland, Robert Erlin and Keyvius Sampson.  It won’t be long before this NL West after thought has enough star power to become a perennial favorite to make the playoffs.  Kudos to current San Diego and former Arizona General Manager Josh Byrnes for erecting such a deal.  He helped build a winner in the desert and it appears he’s on pace to do it again in sunny San Diego.  

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