Asked about a potential trade to the nation's capital on Wednesday in an MLB Network Radio interview with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern, 26-year-old left-hander Gio Gonzalez, then an A's starter, told the hosts if he was dealt to Washington from Oakland, "I'll be at the White House every day." Asked if he had any preference for where he might land, Gonzalez declined to pick a destination, explaining, "I always say, wherever they want me, wherever the team is willing to have me play on the team and put me in the rotation, I'll be more than happy to shine like a star there." Earlier this afternoon, the Nationals and A's agreed on the 4-for-1* deal for Gonzalez that had been talked about in the press for over a week now.
Gonzalez said the idea of pitching in meaningful games in the future excited him. "The teams that are contending and the teams that are out trying to pick up players and put a team together, I think that's awesome. I think when you can put a team together and go out there and try to win a title or at least fight for one, that to me is what you play for. It's what every baseball player plays for." Thursday afternoon, the deal between the A's and Nats was announced with Oakland acquiring 23-year-old right-hander Brad Peacock, 19-year-old righty A.J. Cole, 24-year-old left-hander Tommy Milone and 22-year-old catcher Derek Norris in exchange for Gonzalez. With the move, the Nationals seem to be signaling that they're one of the teams trying to build a contender...
In Washington, Gonzalez, a four-year veteran who finished the 2011 season with a (16-12) record in 32 starts and 202.0 IP over which he had a 3.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP, a league-leading 91 walks (4.05 BB/9) and 197 K's (8.78 K/9), will be pitching atop the Nats' rotation along with 23-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg and 25-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann in a pitching corps that is likely to include 27-year-old left-hander John Lannan, 31-year-old Chien-Ming Wang and 25-year-old '07 1st Round pick lefty Ross Detwiler.
Asked about his one glaring weakness, his high walk totals, in the MLB Network Radio interview, and how he could cut down on the free passes, Gonzalez said, "It's tough to say, because there's so many things about baseball you can't really touch upon. You can blame it on so many things, you can look at it so many ways. It's tough. It could be, I throw maybe a good breaking ball on a good count and the hitter didn't swing, the umpire might have missed it a little bit, it could have been a ball, it could have been a strike, or it was just too good a pitch that he laid off of it. Maybe it was in the right spot, but it wasn't what the hitter was looking for. There's so many things that can happen, but at the same time you look at the strikeout ratio, it was still up there, so it's almost like you're going to get one or the other, you know what I mean."
The Nationals and A's had reportedly been talking about a potential deal since the Winter Meetings, with Washington originally balking (at least publicly) at the return Oakland was after, but a few days ago FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) reported that the two teams were talking again, writing that his sources told him the Nationals were, "... pushing hard for Gio. Discussing 4-for-1 trade with Athletics." D.C. GM Mike Rizzo and the Nats pushed hard but lost out on Mark Buehrle, who signed with Miami. After that deal was announced, the Nats' GM told reporters Washington was then more likely to acquire a pitcher via a trade.
Rizzo had talked about the Nationals willingness to deal from their depth for some time now, telling reporters in including Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore, as quoted in an article entitled, "Nationals, Mike Rizzo want to acquire outfielder, starting pitching this offseason", in a late-September interview that he believed the Nationals', "'... pitching depth is the best I’ve seen since I’ve been around here, since the Lerners acquired the team. We certainly would discuss trades to fill some of our needs, if the trade makes sense.'" In a late-October discussion with reporters, Rizzo explained that though Washington was happy with the pitchers they had, "...we're always looking to upgrade and to improve our rotation. What we're trying to do via free agency or on the trade market, international market, would be to improve our rotation and we're always looking to upgrade."
When the idea of a trade from the Nats' organizational depth came up in a discussion with the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell last winter, the WaPost writer said that Rizzo was always willing to part with prospects in return for proven talent, because, "Rizzo hates the words 'prospect' and 'potential,'":
"They are usually surrounded by a curse word. He loves the phrase 'proven major-league production.' You ALWAYS trade the former for the latter. In trades, from his Arizona days, Mike likes to see teams prey on the Baseball America List Syndrome. Find a (poor) team that's greedy to tell its fans that they just traded a star for several prospects who are "Rated No. blah-blah-blah."
The Nats gave up three players that were on this year's edition of Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects list, but they traded potential for a starter that slots in nicely alongside Strasburg and Zimmermann as a solid 1-2-3 and instantly improves the Nationals' rotation. Washington added a pitcher that (barring any unforeseen circumstances) can pitch alongside Strasburg and Zimmermann for the next 3-4 years at a fairly reasonable cost. The Nationals entered the offseason saying they thought they were a starter and an outfielder away from contention. They got their starter today...
(ed. note - "Apparently it's a 4-for-2 trade with the Nationals also acquiring 24-year-old right-hander Robert Gilliam, an '09 8th Round pick who was (12-7) with 48 walks (2.63 BB/9) and 156 K's (8.54 K/9) in 28 games and 164.1 IP for the A's high A affiliate.")