GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Mat Latos said on Tuesday morning that the Padres did him a favor this past offseason by trading him to the Reds. The right-hander is ticketed for the top of the Cincinnati rotation, much like he was in San Diego.
The trade surprised and shocked Latos, he said before practice on Tuesday morning at the Reds’ Spring Training complex.
“All of the above,” Latos told MLB.com. “I think they did me a favor. It’s the best move the Padres could have made. The four guys they got, they felt, offered more value to them than I did. In the end, it turned out to be for the best.”
The Reds traded four players for Latos: right-handers Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger, first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal. Latos and Volquez are expected to swap spots in the starting rotations of their respective new clubs. Alonso is hoping to win a spot at first base in San Diego, which later traded highly touted Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs.
Grandal was a top Reds prospect. Boxberger is a reliever who was working his way up the Reds system and had a 2.93 ERA at Triple-A last year. Both are probably ticketed for the Padres’ Minor League system this season.
San Diego GM Josh Byrnes, reached at the Padres camp by phone on Tuesday, said Latos was a victim of his talent level as the new general manager tried to recast a team that finished at the bottom of the National League West this past season.
“Any player that you can trade and get four back is obviously pretty good,” he said. We valued Mat a lot. If we didn’t get that back, we wouldn’t have traded him.”
As the Padres went from contender to pretender from 2010 to ’11, Latos’ stats also flipped. He was 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA in ’10 and lost the final game of that season to the Giants in San Francisco when the Padres were eliminated from the playoffs. The Giants went on to win the World Series.
Last year, he was 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA as the Padres lost 91 games. He started 31 times in each of his first two full seasons. He is just 24 and had long been a prized player grown from Day 1 in the Padres system.
Still, despite the loss of his 2010 dominance, Latos said he was assured by members of the Padres’ hierarchy that he wouldn’t be traded. Byrnes replaced Jed Hoyer as GM after Hoyer’s departure to the Cubs, and things changed.
“From the talks I had with certain people, it didn’t seem like I was going to be traded,” Latos said. “Then again, I was. So it goes. Did it have anything to do with the change in GMs? I don’t know. It’s irrelevant to me now if it had anything to do with that.”
Byrnes agreed that the transition to him from Hoyer might have had an impact on a prime young player being traded.
“We certainly took a fresh look at any way we could improve,” Byrnes said. “Being honest, I’m not aware of any assurances that he wouldn’t be traded. The only reason we were willing to do that trade is that we got four players back. Anything short of that and it wouldn’t have happened and we would’ve kept Mat.”
Latos said on Tuesday that his shoulder feels healthy and the move into a different organization hasn’t been that difficult.
“It’s great. I’m having fun,” he said.
Dusty Baker, the Reds’ veteran manager, added that he’s watching and learning as he views Latos’ habits both on and off the field.
“He has a lot of upside potential. That’s what we’re banking on,” Baker said. “Not just for the short term, but for the long term. Like I tell everybody — especially the new guys — just be yourself. It’s like being the new guy in the office. It’s always going to take an adjustment. Everybody comes with a reputation and a jacket. Bad, good, true or false. This is a new start. You have a chance to change that jacket.”