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Yonder Alonso Rumors
The Reds used only six starting pitchers last season — an unheard of feat these days that serves as a testament to the quality and durability of their rotation. Todd Redmond was the only pitcher outside of the Reds' top five arms to make a start, and he made exactly one. Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake and Mat Latos combined to start the other 161 games. Each of those right-handers has been with the Reds organization since 2009 with the exception of Latos, who was acquired from the Padres in December 2011.
Latos never appeared on a Baseball America Top 100 list, but he wasted little time establishing himself as a front-line starter in San Diego. From 2010-11, he led the Padres staff by compiling 379 innings of 3.21 ERA ball with 8.9 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.
Latos' name had scarcely appeared on the rumor mill prior to December 17, when Ken Rosenthal broke the news that he'd been traded to the Reds. Cincinnati wound up paying a hefty price for four years of Latos by dealing prospects Yonder Alonso (24 at the time), Yasmani Grandal (22) and Brad Boxberger (23) as well as starter Edinson Volquez to the Padres. Let's examine each player in the deal and see how this one looks today…
The Major League Side
- Mat Latos: Latos instantly became one of the Reds' top two starters alongside Johnny Cueto, and his first season didn't disappoint. Many questioned whether Latos, who is more of a fly-ball pitcher, could succeed in the confines of Great American Ball Park. Latos answered them by pitching to a 3.48 ERA in 209 1/3 innings. He whiffed 185 batters against just 64 walks and allowed homers at a league-average rate (1.07 HR/9). Latos was forced into action in Game 1 of the NLDS following an injury to Cueto and delivered four brilliant innings of relief, but he was unable to replicate that magic in his second appearance. So far this season, the former 11th round pick has a 1.83 ERA with 37 strikeouts and eight walks in 39 1/3 innings so far. He signed a two-year, $11.5MM contract in the offseason that bought out his first two years of arbitration. Assuming another successful two seasons, he'll likely earn well over $10MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility, although the Reds could pursue a long-term contract extension that would delay his free agency. Fangraphs pegs Latos' value to the Reds at 4.0 wins above replacement to this point.
- Yonder Alonso: Alonso was the No. 33 prospect in the game and the Reds' No. 3 prospect at the time of the deal, according to Baseball America. His first season with the Friars could be considered a disappointment by some due to his lack of power, but the former No. 7 overall pick was still an above-average bat (109 OPS+) thanks to a .278/.348/.393 batting line. He's already homered four times in 2013 after hitting just nine in 2012, so it seems that the alterations to Petco Park's dimensions and another year of experience have done the young slugger some good. Under team control through 2017, the Padres are counting on Alonso to be the first baseman for San Diego's next contending team. So much so, in fact, that they traded Anthony Rizzo less than a month after acquiring Alonso in the Latos deal.
- Yasmani Grandal: The No. 53 prospect in baseball and No. 4 in the Reds' system at the time of the deal (per BA), Grandal burst onto the scene as the Padres' everyday catcher last season. After raking to the tune of a .335/.443/.521 line in Triple-A, he hit .297/.394/.469 in 60 games for the Padres. That line would be impressive enough for any rookie, but it's particularly impressive for a catcher who spent half his time hitting at Petco Park. Of course, Grandal was slapped with a 50-game suspension this offseason due to an elevated testosterone level, so he has yet to join Alonso in the middle of the Pads' lineup.
- Edinson Volquez: Volquez's inclusion in the deal gave the Padres an experienced Major League arm to immediately fill Latos' void in their rotation. Volquez came with upside, as he was three years removed from a 3.9 WAR season. He didn't come close to that level, but he did provide 1.1 WAR by hurling 182 2/3 innings of 4.14 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9, 5.2 BB/9 and a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate. He's been worse in 2013, though he did turn in a good start today. The 29-year-old Volquez, who was once traded for Josh Hamilton, will be eligible for free agency following the 2013 season.
The Prospect Side
- Brad Boxberger: Only Boxberger can still be considered a "prospect" in this deal, and that's a bit of a stretch as he appeared in 24 games for the Padres last season. He still has rookie eligibility, however, and was ranked 15th among Padres' prospects by BA and 18th by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. Boxberger had a strong 2.60 ERA and 10.7 K/9 for the Padres in 2012, but he walked 18 batters in 27 2/3 innings and also hit two. BA writes that Boxberger's fastball sits 91-93 mph and tops out at 95 with hard cutting action. He favors his changeup heavily over his slider, and BA notes the Reds would like to see him incorporate the third pitch more often. Mayo feels that Boxberger has the stuff to eventually succeed as the Padres' closer, provided he can improve his command issues — a feat which he did achieve in Triple-A last season (3.9 BB/9).
Overall, this trade has the makings of a win-win deal. Volquez has provided little value, but he was also the least significant part of the trade for the Padres, given his lack of team control. San Diego GM Josh Byrnes secured three prospects that he can control through at least the 2017 season in exchange for an established arm that will be in Cincinnati through the 2015 campaign. Based on the early results, Alonso and Grandal look like they will be mainstays in a rebuilding Padres lineup, and Boxberger has the chance to become at least a serviceable middle reliever with upside for more.
Latos has already played a role in giving Cincinnati one of Major League Baseball's best rotations, and given his age, he may have more to offer as his prime years set in. Reds GM Walt Jocketty couldn't have been thrilled about the concept of parting with Alonso and Grandal, but the Reds already had Joey Votto at first base and felt confident that Devin Mesoraco could become their everyday catcher. That hasn't happened yet, but Mesoraco is still just 24 years of age and catchers often take longer to develop offensively. Unlike some of the other trades I've examined in this series, both the Reds and Padres have plenty to feel good about following this swap.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Giants clinched the NL West Division title this past weekend, despite having lost Melky Cabrera for the remainder of the regular season due to a failed drug test. As the 2010 World Champs gear up to make a run at a second title in three years, here are some links surrounding the division…
- Sergio Romo appeared on "Inside Pitch" with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM and said the Giants would welcome Cabrera back with open arms if he returned to the team during the playoffs. "Why wouldn't we want him on our team?" asked Romo, before going onto call Cabrera a "great teammate" whose talent would improve the team's chances of winning it all.
- Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso was on a trip to Spain with his sister and friends (including Manny Machado) last winter when he learned of his trade, writes MLB.com's Corey Brock. Alonso was there courtesy of his team at the time, the Reds, to watch his favorite soccer team — Real Madrid. Brock's article is a terrific look at how trades can affect players on a personal level, and contains quotes from Alonso, Machado, and GMs Walt Jocketty (Reds) and Josh Byrnes (Padres).
- Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario is the best rookie that no one is talking about, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman suggests that Rosario is could be outperforming other, more commonly discussed candidates.
Some highlights from Josh Byrnes' conference call this afternoon..
- Padres GM Josh Byrnes said four teams had the right package of young players to make a run at Mat Latos, tweets Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Ultimately, he said, the Padres winnowed it to two teams before deciding on the Reds.
- Byrnes said that the Padres view Yonder Alonso as a first base candidate and not as a left fielder, Crasnick tweets. Right now, it appears that Alonso and Jesus Guzman will duke it out for the job in Spring Training (Twitter link).
- For the time being, it seems that the Padres' current plan is to slot Alonso in at first and have Rizzo go back to Triple-A, tweets Crasnick. Byrnes admits that the deal will probably be a tough pill to swallow for Anthony Rizzo, tweets Scott Miller of CBSSports.com.
- The Padres GM says that he won't rule out another trade, but he is comfortable with his team's surplus of offensive players, Crasnick writes (via Twitter).
- Newcomer Yasmani Grandal will be given more time in the minors, tweets Crasnick. Byrnes referred to Nick Hundley as the club's "No. 1 guy" and a key part of the team.
The Reds wanted to boost their rotation this winter and the club wasn't afraid to part with a great deal of talent in order to get their man in Mat Latos. The Reds acquired Latos from the Padres this afternoon for Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger.
Latos turned 24 just over a week ago, but already has more than two full seasons under his belt. From 2010-11, the right-hander accumulated a 3.21 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and a 43.7% groundball rate. Both FIP (3.09) and SIERA (3.33) like Latos quite a bit, and he's not arbitration eligible until after the 2012 season. The promising young hurler will pair with Johnny Cueto atop the Reds' rotation.
Alonso, who turns 25 early next season, turned heads with an explosive showing toward the tail end of 2011. He hit .330/.398/.545 down the stretch, albeit in a small sample size of 98 plate appearances. The Reds took Alonso seventh overall in the 2008 draft, and he's ranked in Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects each of the past three seasons. He's trended in the wrong direction, however, ranking 35th, 45th, and 73rd, respectively, from 2009-2011. In 192 Triple-A plate appearances, he owns a .296/.364/.478 triple slash line.
It's unclear as of yet where the Padres view Alonso fitting in, as they also have Anthony Rizzo as a first base option. Rizzo, 22, is considerably younger than Alonso, so it's possible that his struggles in the Majors have the Friars convinced he could use a full season of work in Triple-A, or he himself could become a trade chip. San Diego could also slot Alonso into a corner outfield spot, although scouts agree he's better suited for first base.
Volquez, 28, broke out in his first year with the Reds in 2008 but has not enjoyed the same success since that season. Thanks to an elbow injury in 2009 and a 50 game suspension for performance enhancing drugs in 2010, the right-hander logged just 112.1 big league innings during that two-year span. Last season, Volquez turned in a 5.71 ERA with 8.6 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 across 20 starts. Volquez is arbitration eligible for the second time and will be a free agent after the 2013 campaign.
Grandal, who turned 23 last month, shot up the charts this season by hitting .305/.401/.500 and reaching Triple-A as a 22-year-old. Baseball America ranked him fourth among Reds prospects heading into 2012, writing that he projects as an above average offensive catcher with solid defense. "He has a balanced approach, controls the strike zone and uses the entire field… [he] still has work to do on his receiving and could use a full year in Triple-A."While it's difficult to give up a catcher with that kind of minor league production, the Reds also have Devin Mesoraco, and likely felt they were dealing from a position of depth.
Boxberger ranked 10th on the Cincy farm, according to BA. He struggled with his command all season but still posted a 2.03 ERA in 62 minor league relief innings. He walked 4.1 per nine innings but posted a whopping 13.5 K/9. BA writes that if he can control his pitches like he did in the Arizona Fall League this year, he projects as a setup man and possibly a closer.
Photo courtesy of Tony Medina/Icon SMI.
Earlier today, Rays manager Joe Maddon told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM that Yonder Alonso's name has come up in meetings (Twitter link). The Rays recognize they may have to trade a starter, Maddon told Bowden.
Alonso is one of the more prized products of the Reds' farm system. The 24-year-old first baseman owns a .296/.364/.478 slash line at Triple-A, and wowed the Reds and those who covet his bat with a late season callup that saw him hit .330/.398/.545 with five homers in 98 plate appearances.
We heard late last night that the Rays are open to trading both Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann, but neither seems like the type of impact pitcher Cincinnati would be looking to add if they moved Alonso. It's been said that the Rays will at least listen on James Shields, but coming off a monster effort in 2011 and controlled for three more years at a total of $28MM, he would require an enormous haul.
The latest on several NL Central teams…
- The Reds are talking about a lot of trade possibilities and talking about a whole range of players, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. It is a possibility the Reds use Yonder Alonso as a trade piece to fix other needs, manager Dusty Baker told Jim Bowden on MLB Netowrk Radio. Baker indicated the Reds will keep prospects Yasmani Grandal and Devin Mesoraco, as well as star first baseman Joey Votto.
- The Reds outrighted lefty Jeremy Horst, dropping their 40-man roster count to 39, according toMLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
- ESPN's Jayson Stark tweets that the Astros are letting teams know Carlos Lee is out there. Lee, 35, is owed $18.5MM for 2012 and has ten-and-five rights. A source close to the Astros' ownership tells Stark interim GM David Gottfried has autonomy to make trades this week.
- Speaking of mistakes from the 2006-07 offseason, the Cubs are getting a bit of interest in left fielder Alfonso Soriano, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. Soriano, 35, is owed $54MM through 2014 and has a full no-trade clause. I think the Cubs would have to eat over $40MM to move Soriano.
- World Series revenue is not a game-changer for the Cardinals, owner Bill DeWitt Jr. told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and the team's payroll is expected to remain around $110MM. The Cardinals have about $80MM committed to eight players under contract for 2012.
- The Brewers are in on everyone at several positions, including shortstop and third base, but are not down the road at all on any of them, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. The Brewers are also known to be actively seeking relief help.
The Reds’ owners continue engaging in friendly debate with one another about Joey Votto’s future with the team, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Here are the details on the Reds’ first base situation and more of Rosenthal’s notes from around MLB…
- Cincinnati CEO Bob Castellini doesn’t want to trade Votto and appears to believe an extension is possible. However, some Reds owners believe the team should explore trades for the 2010 NL MVP. Votto is under contract through 2013.
- Rival GMs consider Yonder Alonso a one-dimensional player, not someone who could be a centerpiece in a trade for a starting pitcher like James Shields or Gio Gonzalez.
- The Rangers are considering assistant GM Thad Levine and former Astros GM Tim Purpura for their open farm director position, according to Rosenthal.
- Teams are “kicking the tires” on Alfonso Soriano and the Cubs are willing to pick up a substantial chunk of the $54MM remaining on the 35-year-old left fielder's contract. He posted a .244/.289/.469 line with 26 home runs last season and is under contract through 2014.
- Teams are calling the Rangers about right-hander Koji Uehara, but Texas may hold on to him, since they’re short on left-handed relief and Uehara is effective against left-handed hitters.
- The A’s won’t attempt to re-sign Josh Willingham, but they’re interested in re-signing another one of their free agent outfielders: Coco Crisp.
The Reds are offering Yonder Alonso as trade bait in their search for a closer or a No. 2 starter, reports Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown. Reds GM Walt Jocketty has spoken to several teams — including the A's, Blue Jays, Indians and Rays — about Alonso, though we heard earlier this week that the Reds thought Alonso was too much to give up for Oakland closer Andrew Bailey.
Alonso is regarded as Cincinnati's top hitting prospect, if one without a Major League position since Joey Votto is cemented at first base. The 24-year-old has an OPS of .837 in four minor league seasons and hit .330/.398/.545 in 98 plate appearances with the Reds last year.
If the Reds were willing to move him, you would think Alonso would be too much to deal for any closer, not just Bailey. Jocketty has said his club's top priority is finding a starting pitcher this offseason, so while the Jays and Indians have some good young arms, they wouldn't be willing to deal a top-of-the-rotation caliber of starter for which the Reds are looking. The Jays and Tribe also have other options at first base, though Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion and Matt LaPorta wouldn't be major obstacles if Toronto or Cleveland had a legitimate shot at Alonso. The A's and Reds might not be a match on Bailey, but Jocketty might deem possibly-available pitchers like Gio Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill worthy of moving Alonso.
The most logical match would appear to be Tampa Bay, who has a big hole at first base, lots of pitching and a need for a controllable young talent like Alonso. The Rays could offer Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann, though the Reds are more likely looking for a pitcher like James Shields. (Obviously David Price and Jeremy Hellickson are staying put.)
4:43pm: The Mariners have inquired on Bailey, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter). Olney suggests the A's will definitely move the reliever this offseason.
11:19am: A Reds source agrees that Alonso is way too much for Bailey, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Sheldon notes that starting pitching is a more pressing need for the Reds than a closer.
9:00am: The Reds are talking about a possible deal for Athletics closer Andrew Bailey, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. The A's are interested in Yonder Alonso, tweets Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM and ESPN.com. The Reds have a need at the back end of their bullpen, with Francisco Cordero entertaining offers as a free agent. The Blue Jays are also known to have Bailey on the radar.
Bailey, 27, posted a 3.24 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, and 37.1% groundball rate in 41 2/3 innings this year. He missed time with an oblique injury in 2010, and also had elbow surgery in September of that year. Effects of the procedure caused him to miss most of the first two months of the 2011 campaign.
Bailey is under team control through 2014, and we project him for a reasonable $3.5MM in 2012 as he'll be arbitration eligible for the first time.
ESPN's Keith Law gave his thoughts on a number of prospects during a chat with readers today, and also expounded on a few Major League items. The highlights…
- Cubs fans should be excited about Theo Epstein's "ability to turn the Cubs' baseball ops department into a process-oriented, professionally run organization. You can't run a baseball team the way they were run 20 or 30 years ago. It's a business now, one where smart decisions based on sound processes are necessary and innovation is increasingly critical."
- Law describes Brett Jackson (taken 31st overall by the Cubs in the 2009 amateur draft) as a "non-star prospect" and thinks he would be fair compensation for Epstein.
- Law doesn't think Grady Sizemore can remain healthy as an everyday center fielder. The Indians have a $9MM club option on Sizemore next season but will take their time in deciding on it, given that Sizemore just underwent knee surgery.
- Between Joey Votto and Yonder Alonso, Law would deal Alonso and "look to win" in the remaining two years that Votto is under Reds' control. Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty recently shot down rumors that the Reds were listening to offers for the reigning NL MVP.
- Law hears from his sources that J.P. Ricciardi isn't currently on the Orioles' short list of general manager candidates, as was reported on Tuesday by Law's ESPN colleague Buster Olney. Law worked for the Blue Jays' front office from 2002-06 when Ricciardi was the team's general manager.
- The Mariners "might have the best rotation in baseball by 2013 or so."
- If given a choice of signing either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to a seven-year contract worth the same money, Law says he would choose the younger Fielder. "Pujols is the better player right now, but even at his listed age I worry about his durability and potential decline," Law says.
- Despite Alex Avila's breakout 2011 season, Law said he still prefers Matt Wieters as the better long-term player.