So the Nats finally made their big splash this offseason, but after signing Mike Cameron to a minor league deal and Mark DeRosa along with his one good wrist, Rizzo realized that they'd only filled out the 24th and 25th spots on their roster. What Washington has needed for the past two off-seasons was another starting pitcher to slot in behind Strasburg and Zimmermann and hopefully they've found it in Gio Gonzales.
While some people may point to Gonzalez' home/away splits as cause for concern, for me the concern is really tied to the number of free passes Gonzales gives up (4.1 BB/9). All of that being said, he's still a guy that had an 8.8 k/9 last year and if he can control the walks could easily elevate himself into elite status, which is a big if, but the stuff is definitely there. Another thing that bodes well for Gonzalez is that he doesn't have a great reputation for being mentally tough and scouts have knocked his on-field mental makeup in the past, but with the Nats he won't be asked to be the guy, or even the #2, which should take a lot of pressure off of Gonzalez.
As for the players Gonzalez was dealt for, at first glance it appears that the A's got quite a haul. However, the more closely I examine each of these guys, the more they start to look more Willie Mo Pena than Willie Mays. Beginning at the top of the class with A.J. Cole, Cole has a big arm and could be a front of the rotation starter by 2013 or 2014. Still, he's very young and has a ways to go. While Cole was never listed on the Baseball America top 100 prospect list, as the Nats #4 overall prospect it's generous to assume that he would have landed somewhere in the 40-60 range this year. Just for arguments sake, the pitchers who appeared in the 2009 BA Top 100 were as follows: 41 - Jordan Zimmermann, 45- Tim Alderson, 46 - Jhoulys Chacin, 52 - Carlos Carrasco, 54 - Michael Inoa and 56 - James McDonald. Of those six pitchers, only two, Zimmermann and Chacin look to have bright futures in the big leagues. McDonald may very well become a dependable big leaguer, but Alderson and Inoa have both regressed since then and Carrasco doesn't appear to be much. Essentially, that's two out of six pitchers, but the thing those two had in common was that both had a few years under their belt and success in the minor leagues. Players such as Cole have further to go and thus are much harder to project, still there's a better chance that Cole is a never-was than of him becoming a future ace.
Second, is Brad Peacock, who had a great season in the minor leagues in 2011 before getting a cup of coffee in September. Peacock throws hard and has above average control, still some scouts see his future in the bullpen vs. as a starter. He needs to develop a better second pitch to remain a starter, but should have a good future in the 'pen as is.
Third is Derek Norris, Norris is a bat-first catcher who has struggled to hit for average and will likely repeat AA this year. He has power and a good OBP, but some still question whether he will be able to remain behind the plate where most of his value lies. After all, a good hitting catcher is much tougher to find than a good hitting 1B. Still, this was a position of significant depth for the Nats and Norris was blocked by both Flores and Ramos.
Finally, is Tommy Millone, who fits the very definition of crafty left-hander. He hides the ball well, changes speeds, but only throws about 85-86 MPH. Far more pitchers like Millone are able to have success in AA and AAA, but never have success at the next level than guys like Kurt Rueter who are able to fashion a career out of being left-handed.
So, if you look at this trade from the most optimistic of perspectives, than the Nats gave up a bunch of never will-be's for a front of the rotation starter under team control for 4 years. If you're a pessimist, than the Nats gave up two front of the rotation starters in Peacock and Cole, a middle of the rotation starter in Millone and the next Mike Napoli in Derek Norris. Having seen all of these guys play with the exception of Cole, I think the Nats gave up a future #2 in Cole, a future bullpen guy in Peacock and a couple of never-will-be's in Millone and Norris for a guy who should pitch like an above average #3. Not a steal for either side, but one in which they both get what they wanted and have room for upside.