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NL Central Roundup: Cincinnati Reds go full Jocketty for Latos, etc.

I'll say this for Walt Jocketty: As the baseball landscape continues to change—and prospects become more and more valued by the rest of baseball—he remains the same Walt Jocketty who built two outstanding Cardinals teams from trading prospects for veterans immediately before and after Moneyball. The weird thing about the Mat Latos trade is that it's a kind of ersatz challenge between the two most expensive resources in baseball circa 2011—one cost-controlled starter with excellent peripherals for several cost-controlled prospects with good pedigrees. This isn't trading a fluke starting pitcher for an unpopular center fielder—it's trading a few gold bars for a brick of platinum.

That said—this is a lot of gold bars. I'm not at all sold on Yonder Alonso and I still think the Reds might have lost this trade; if you actually think he's one of the top hitting prospects in baseball (and I'm not honestly sure why you would) the Reds are in real trouble.

I'm sympathetic to the argument Dave Cameron made on FanGraphs—basically that the Reds had a ton of surplus value here, and they decided to use it all on one potentially great player instead of spending it on several very good players—but in the history of baseball analysis I have been burned by no one idea so much as, "[Team X] has like four great players at that position, they should dump all that depth as soon as possible." Call it the Taylor Teagarden Hypothesis, if only because we need more reasons, in these troubled times, to still say the name "Taylor Teagarden."

Alonso is a good old-fashioned blocked slugger—neither he nor Joey Votto should be playing left field, although Chris Heisey or whomever else they'll be starting there probably isn't a great bet himself. But now Votto has to stay healthy, and Devin Mesoraco has to perform well in his rookie season, and the bullpen can't need Brad Boxberger. By trading all that depth not for more depth but for one player they've made themselves a better, thinner team for a year or so—and they absolutely must win the division in that window.

This isn't a bad trade—so it's not Mulder-for-Haren-and-co., which was obviously terrible from the moment it was made (even if my reaction to that effect was in no small part because I thought Daric Barton would be a star)—but it's not Edmonds for Bottenfield, either.

Elsewhere: The Brewers break my heart and sign Norichika Aoki, the Astros put together the worst ZiPS projections you will ever see.

Brewers—like the Cardinals they're a bit of an odd fit for Aoki, Japan's designated Ichiro replacement, since they, too, have an over-performing left-handed hitter in center field already. But for $2 million and a Tsuyoshi Nishioka-sized deal Aoki should be, at least, the player they've budgeted for, and he's at least more likely to parlay Ryan Braun's suspension into a more permanent starting arrangement than Carlos Gomez.

Astros—Jeff Luhnow was just named GM of one of those foreclosed homes where the previous occupants tore huge holes in the walls and spraypainted genitalia on everything on their way out. Jose Altuve looks like a neat player, and the Jed Lowrie trade was great, and Wandy Rodriguez and Bud Norris could be average pitchers until Luhnow trades them for prospects in June. But that's it.

Who knew that Ed Wade's gameplan was to make the Astros so terrible that, six years into the deal, Carlos Lee really would be the best player on the team?