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Cincinnati Reds Acquire Mat Latos: Why the Reds Are Now NL Central Favorites

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Cincinnati Reds Acquire Mat Latos: Why the Reds Are Now NL Central Favorites
Kent Horner/Getty Images

Cincinnati Reds fans have spent the past two months following 'exciting' news reports like "Cincinnati interested in Josh Willingham," "Reds target Gio Gonzalez" and "Reds sign Andrew Brackman." So when the headline broke that "Reds Acquire Mat Latos," Cincinnati fans experienced a shock to their cheese coney-filled systems.

In the trade, the Reds dealt first baseman Yonder Alonso, starting pitcher Edinson Volquez, catcher Yasmani Grandal and closer Brad Boxberger to the Padres in exchange for the 24-year-old ace starting pitcher.

Many Reds fans are reacting in anger and dismay at exactly how much the Reds had to give up to get Latos. It's impossible to deny that Latos is a legitimate young star in the making, but Alonso, Grandal and Boxberger all have the potential to be future All-Stars.

The trade is great for the Reds in the short term, but history could view this trade in the same light as "Bartolo Colon Traded to the Expos." In that trade, Montreal gave up Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.  

Let's focus on the short term though.

Since the World Series ended we've observed the following events:

Tony La Russa retires from the Cardinals
Albert Pujols signs with Anaheim
Houston Astros will leave for the AL next year
An extra playoff spot will be added in each league
Ryan Braun is on the brink of getting suspended for 50 games
Prince Fielder is on the brink of leaving Milwaukee
The Cubs haven't improved
The Astros haven't improved
The Pirates haven't improved
The Reds trade for Mat Latos

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Add all of these up and it creates a recipe for a 2012 NL Central championship for Cincinnati.

The NL Central is getting drastically weaker with the loss of Pujols, Fielder and possibly Braun. Major League Baseball is making it easier for NL Central teams to make the playoffs by adding another playoff spot and moving the Astros to the American League. Nobody except Cincinnati has actually improved.

The Reds now have a very competitive pitching staff and a lineup that is only one bat away from being the best in the National League.

Latos is a young right-hander who struck out 185 batters in 194 innings last year. His 9-14 record last season is more indicative of the Padres' inability to generate runs than his ability as a pitcher. He's had two solid seasons in the major leagues, and best of all he was 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA against the Cardinals last year.

The 2012 season is looking like it will be an exciting year to be a Reds fan.

One remaining question, however, is who is going to play left field?

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