The Washington Nationals put out a press release Friday night officially announcing the trade with the A's that sent right-handers A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock, lefty Tom Milone and catcher Derek Norris to Oakland in exchange for 26-year-old left-hander Gio Gonzalez and 24-year-old right-hander Robert Gilliam. In the release, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo was quoted stating that the Nats, "... could not be more pleased to add lefthander Gio Gonzalez to our club." After a search for a starter to join Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann on the Nationals' staff that began back in the winter of 2010, the Nationals finally found a pitcher they think gives them a competitive top of the rotation. "Gio is a front-line starter with glowing credentials," Rizzo was quoted stating in the release, "the vast majority of which were achieved before his 26th birthday. Gio's presence bolsters the top portion of our rotation with yet another power arm to compete in the rugged National League East."
The Nationals' GM spoke to reporters about the newest Nats' starter on Friday night...
In his fourth major league season in 2011, Gonzalez had a (16-12) record in 32 starts with a 3.12 ERA, 3.64 FIP, a league-leading 91 walks (4.05 BB/9) and 197 K's (8.78 K/9) in 202.0 IP. In a teleconference with reporters Friday night, the Nats' general manager said the addition of Gonzalez gave Washington, "All the prerequisites that we had to have for a deal of this magnitude." Rizzo described the 5'11'' starter as, "... a young power-throwing left-hander. He's got plus, plus stuff. Being a left-hander was really a key to this. We feel that he matches up very nicely between our two power right-handers [Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann]."
With all the talented left-handed hitters in the NL East, Rizzo said the Nats believe, "... it's important to have at least a couple of left-handers in your rotation and a couple left-handers in your bullpen." Gonzalez, in particular, Rizzo said, "... brings a presence in our rotation. He's had success. He's been a workhorse. He's very, very young. Just turned 26. Accomplished a lot of things before his 26th birthday, and gives us a young core of starting pitchers at the major league level that really is in the realm of something that we've never had here before."
Informed of the names the A's received from the Nats by San Francisco Chronicle writer Susan Slusser, a scout quoted in an article yesterday entitled, "Gio Gonzalez is heading from A’s to Nationals", told the reporter, "'I don’t know how Oakland could have done better. They got the right set of names. Quality and depth.'" The Nats' GM admitted Friday night that the cost for Gonzalez was steep. "Of course, to acquire a player like this, you need to give up some painful players in return and we've done just that," Rizzo said.
The former scout and Arizona D-Backs' scouting director who became the Nationals' GM described Peacock, Milone, Cole and Norris as, "...four players that are near and dear to our hearts because we scouted them, drafted them, signed them and developed them and they were long-standing members of our organization, and they'll be sorely missed."
"To get a 26-year-old controllable, affordable left-handed pitcher that's pitched in All-Star games at the peak of his career," Rizzo explained, "it takes a bundle of good, talented players." The process of selecting just which players the A's would receive in return for Gonzalez started, "... probably over a month ago," Rizzo said Friday night. "We had early initial conversations with several clubs about acquiring a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. Again, we felt it had to be young enough to fit in with our core of players. He had to be a controllable player, and he had to be an ultra-talented player. And when we narrowed things down to the point where we started exchanging ideas for packages and trades, that was just before the Winter Meetings."
After the Nationals missed out on their top target, Mark Buehrle, who signed with the Miami Marlins, Rizzo said the Nats, "... stepped up our efforts," to find a starter, "... and the dialogue with the Oakland A's continued. There was a momentum that we gained and obviously early on in the process the asks are always much greater at the beginning than they are when you finish a deal and that's the process of negotiating such a trade." Rizzo thinks the move to the National League, "...will positively affect [Gonzalez's] performance."
"We really like his peripheral numbers," Rizzo said, "He's won a lot of games on a mediocre club. 16 wins on the Oakland A's last year was quite a feat. He has the propensity to strike players out. He's got swing and miss stuff and we see his walks turning in the right direction. We see him having general command and we think as he progresses into his career, each and every year he's going to improve on his command."
"We've got a power left-handed pitcher here that stacks up with the best in baseball," Rizzo said, "We felt it was very important for us to get a left-handed pitcher and we like the kid's stuff. We like his make-up a real lot. We've done a lot of work on this guy. I've known him since he was in high school in the Miami area and this is a guy that I've followed for years. Really like the way he competes, he's an ultra-competitor and I call him in a good way a 'sore loser.' In a good way, he really takes defeats hard."
"He's really matured in his approach to the game," Rizzo said offering up the Nats' scouting report, "he's a student of the game, and with his stuff, he's got a 90-95 mph fastball, it will touch 96 at times and we've had him on PitchFx up to that speed. He's got a power breaking ball that he can throw in any count. He can throw it in the strike zone, he can throw it as a swing and miss pitch out of the strike zone. He's got a very good changeup that he uses a lot against right-handed hitters and he's got a moxie and an attitude on the mound that we like, so to us he fits right in there. He separates our two power right-handed pitchers and we've got a power left-handed pitcher and in this division, because it's such a difficult division we felt that we needed an upgrade with our upper-rotation guys and this is the perfect formula for us."