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The Reds finally got the top-of-the-rotation arm they had been searching for on Saturday, acquiring right-hander Mat Latos from the Padres in exchange for right-hander Edinson Volquez and three of the club's top prospects.
"Our offseason objective was to try to upgrade our rotation and add a top-of-the-rotation starter, and Mat Latos, of the potential players available, he's still young at  and he's a power pitcher we think will pitch well in our park," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said on a conference call with reporters. "He's definitely a top-of-the rotation guy who will slot in well behind [Johnny] Cueto and, in time, will develop into a No. 1 starter."
In order to acquire a young starter with the potential of Latos, who went 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA and help opponents to a .233 batting average for the Padres last season, the Reds gave up four young players with similar upside. Along with Volquez, the Reds also sent infielder Yonder Alonso, right-hander Brad Boxberger and catcher Yasmani Grandal to San Diego.
Although the Reds parted with three of the club's top six prospects, as ranked by MLB.com, Jocketty said various factors went into making the deal, which he said was discussed for two weeks.
While the 24-year-old Alonso, who was ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect, is seen as an impact bat, he was blocked at first base by 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto. Likewise, Grandal, a 23-year-old, switch-hitting catcher, was blocked by incumbent Ryan Hanigan and the club's No. 1 prospect, fellow catcher Devin Mesoraco.
Along with Grandal and Boxberger -- whose inclusion Jocketty said helped make the trade happen -- being at least a couple years away from the Majors, Jocketty said Latos being under control for four more seasons made it easier to let go of three players the Reds drafted and developed.
"I wouldn't have made the deal with this many players in it if you didn't have that control," Jocketty said. "You're not only getting potential top-of-the rotation starter someday, but you do have control of him and it's going to be a couple years before he starts thinking big money, so that was a very important part."
Despite being mentioned in trade rumors throughout the offseason, Latos said in a conference call Saturday he heard the opposite from San Diego's front office. He admitted he was "shocked" by the trade but also expressed excitement about playing in Cincinnati.
"I've been hearing my name in those trade rumors, and the vibe I got from our front office was completely different, but, again, things happen for a reason and I'm extremely excited to join the ballclub," Latos said. "I'm excited to start getting in with these guys and meshing with these guys, and hopefully make the playoffs and maybe the World Series."
As an outsider who pitched against the Reds three times in his career, Latos said he's thrilled to be pitching on a team with a potent offense -- a luxury he didn't have in San Diego.
"A lot of talent," Latos said of what he knew about the Reds. "One through eight it was a tough lineup to throw to. You've got Votto, who is arguably one of the best hitters in baseball, [Jay] Bruce out in the outfield. ... There's a lot of talent and a lot of potential to compete for years to come, and I'm excited to come in and play with these guys."
Aside from the backing off an offense, Latos joins a talented young rotation with right-handers Cueto, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey, along with veteran right-hander Bronson Arroyo.
"Now with Johnny Cueto and Latos at the top of our rotation, I think people are going to start taking notice," Jocketty said.
The Reds also freed some money in the trade by giving up Volquez, which Jocketty said will help the club as it searches for a closer and a starting left fielder. Jocketty said finding a left fielder remains a priority -- adding he's heard players have interest in playing at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park -- and the club still has a few deals it's working on.
"We've got some things on the back burner and some on the front burner," Jocketty said. "We're still trying to do a couple more, at least one more, for pitching, and we're looking at potential free agents for pitching and defense, so we'll stay active for the next couple weeks."
Alonso found about the trade shortly after arriving in Spain for a vacation.
"I was kind of excited and shocked at the same time," Alonso said. "It's all good, but it's all bad also. Cincinnati drafted me, gave me a chance and I went to the big leagues with them."