This was step No. 1 for the Reds.
The plan was to acquire a top of the rotation starter and they accomplished that in the deal with San Diego for 6-foot-6 right-hander Mat Latos.
Did they give up too much?
The Reds sent right-hander Edinson Volquez (5-7, 5.71 ERA last year), first baseman Yonder Alonso (.330, 5 home runs, 88 at-bats), minor league catcher Yasmani Grandal and minor league reliever Brad Boxberger to the Padres for Latos.
Thatís a load of talent to give away for one pitcher.
But Reds general manager Walt Jocketty made some good choices in his packaging. Three of the four were expendable according to the Redsí depth chart.
Volquez, who was acquired in the dubious deal with Texas for Josh Hamilton, had turned into an enigma. In his first year with the Reds in 2008, he went 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA and it appeared it was going to be a good deal for both teams.
Then, injuries hit. He made only nine starts in 2009 before undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Aug. 3. Except for a start here and there, he was never the same.
This past year he went 5-7 with a 5.71 ERA in just 20 starts.
Alonso was the teamís first-round pick in 2008 out of the University of Miami. While he hit .330 this year in 88 major league at-bats, he clearly was a man without a position. His natural position of first base will be held by Joey Votto through the 2013 season.
Every effort was made to try Alonso in left field and it was a little like watching an elephant on roller skates.
Grandal was the teamís first-round pick in the 2010 draft, 12th overall, from Miami. Grandal spent the majority of last year between Class A Bakersfield and AA Carolina and batted .305 with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs.
While Grandal appears a star in the making, his path to the majors was blocked by catcher Devin Mesoraco, regarded by The Sporting News as the top catching prospect in baseball. Mesoraco hit .289 with 15 home runs and 71 RBIs at AAA Louisville last year.
That brings us to Boxberger, who could end up a top-end closer or simply a middle reliever. Boxberger was a first-round pick out of USC in 2009. In 55 relief appearances between AA and AAA last year he compiled a 2.03 ERA with 11 saves. His 95 mph fastball racked up 93 strikeouts in 62 innings.
Overall, if Latos stays healthy, itís a good deal for the Reds. Latos has a mid-90s fastball, a plus breaking ball and a better-and-average change-up.
Latos turned 24 this month and in three years in the Padresí rotation, heís compiled a 27-29 record with a 3.37 ERA. Heís struck out 413 and walked 135 in 429 innings.
Last year he went 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA. At monstrous Petco Park last year he had a 3.24 ERA, and on the road, it was only slightly higher at 3.68. Over 31 starts in 194 innings, he struck out 185.
In the end, Alonso and Grandal could go on to have nice careers, but Latos could be in the hunt for a Cy Young.
Now the Reds must shop for a closer and a left fielder.
As of Thursday night, the Reds were finalizing the deal to send left-hander Travis Wood (6-6, 4.84 ERA) to the Cubs for lefty set-up reliever Sean Marshall (2.26 ERA, 5 saves). In order for the deal to make sense, Marshall must be turned into the teamís closer.
At this point, Chris Heisey stands to start in left. He had an up and down season last year hitting .254 with 18 home runs.
With outfielders Jason Kubel (Diamondbacks) and Reed Johnson (Cubs) both signing this week, the free agent pickings are slim. The Giantsí Cody Ross is available. The Philliesí Raul Ibanez and the Giantsí Carlos Beltran are out of the Redsí price range.
After being frustrated at the winter meetings, Jocketty is slowly knocking items off his wish list.
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