Every offseason has a few trades most people didn't see coming. Here are my picks so far:
- Reds acquire Mat Latos from Padres for Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger. The Reds have clearly been in the hunt for a front-of-the-rotation starter since last summer, but Latos' availability was surprising. Latos is a 24-year-old with a 3.37 career ERA and 93 mile per hour fastball, and he's under team control for four more seasons. He's the type of pitcher even non-contending teams are usually looking to acquire. As with the Rockies and Ubaldo Jimenez, perhaps Padres GM Josh Byrnes believed Latos was at peak value. Or maybe he just couldn't resist a chance to acquire the team's future first baseman, catcher, and closer, an intriguing wild card in Volquez, and the depth to move Anthony Rizzo to fill another need.
- Blue Jays acquire Sergio Santos from White Sox for Nestor Molina. Most assumed the White Sox would move some players close to free agency, but Santos recently signed a contract that allows team control through 2017. He won't see his first $4MM+ salary until 2015, and only then if the first of three club options is exercised. The arguments for trading Santos: relievers have short shelf lives, the White Sox had good bullpen depth, and a top closer is a luxury on a potentially rebuilding club. Still, it's surprising Molina was the sole return. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein believes Molina projects as "a future No. 4 starter with some chances of being a three." The White Sox are banking on the righty to buck the industry opinion.
- Padres acquire Huston Street from Rockies for Nick Schmidt at $1MM, Padres acquire Carlos Quentin from White Sox for Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez. These two deals sandwiched the Padres' Latos trade and suggest a win-now mentality that doesn't mix with moving an ace. However, the commitments in prospects was minor for the Padres and both players are only under contract for one more year. Street and Quentin likely created surplus trade value for Byrnes, and the price for Quentin was surprisingly low. Plus, we can't say for sure the Latos trade worsened the 2012 Padres until we see how Byrnes sorts out his current logjams.
- Red Sox acquire Mark Melancon from Astros for Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland. Melancon, the former Astros' closer, is under team control for five more seasons and therefore was generally assumed unavailable. The Santos and Melancon trades suggest a newfound willingness to move relievers in their prime, which makes you wonder what a Kenley Jansen or Greg Holland could fetch.
- Diamondbacks acquire Trevor Cahill, Craig Breslow, and cash from Athletics for Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook. Most people assumed Gio Gonzalez would be moved rather Cahill, and instead A's GM Billy Beane traded both. The Santos and Cahill trades remind us that long-term extensions don't take players off the trade market. It was also surprising that the D'Backs targeted Cahill and were willing to surrender Parker. GMs are less attached to top prospects they didn't acquire, though — Parker wasn't a Kevin Towers draft pick, and Rizzo wasn't a Byrnes acquisition.
- Angels acquire Chris Iannetta from Rockies for Tyler Chatwood. Here's another example: Jerry Dipoto didn't draft Chatwood. Dipoto was willing to move six years of the 22-year-old righty for the more immediate impact brought by one year of Iannetta. The Rockies, meanwhile, may feel there's little difference between Iannetta and new catcher Ramon Hernandez for 2012.