It's rare to see a team trade a potential ace before he is eligible for salary arbitration, but that's exactly what the San Diego Padres did Saturday when they sent Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for first baseman Yonder Alonso, catcher Yasmani Grandal, right-handed reliever Brad Boxberger and right-hander Edinson Volquez. It's a mutually beneficial swap since the Reds need pitching and two of the players they traded -- Alonso and Grandal -- are blocked at their positions. But this deal sent a strong message to the rest of the league: If you want to trade for an elite young pitcher, it's going to cost you.
That's great news for the Oakland Athletics and general manager Billy Beane, who has been listening to offers for left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez throughout the offseason. Gonzalez, Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs and John Danks of the Chicago White Sox are the three likeliest young hurlers to be moved this winter, but as I see it Gonzalez is going to be the next domino to fall. (We'll look at the Garza situation later this week.)
While Gonzalez is an impressive talent -- he had a 3.12 ERA in 2011 with almost a strikeout per inning in more than 200 innings -- he probably won't yield as much as Latos because Gonzalez is already arbitration-eligible, while Latos won't be for another year. That said, the Padres were able to get four useful pieces, two of whom (Grandal and Alonso) have a lot of upside. I see Grandal as having Jason Varitek potential, with Alonso in the Tino Martinez mold. I'd expect Beane to be able to get two or three potential regulars for Gonzalez, at least one with All-Star upside.
Here is a look at five potential trade partners and what Beane might be looking for.
1. Gonzalez to the Detroit Tigers
In return: RHP Jacob Turner, C Rob Brantly and RHP Brenny Paulino