"We're really excited in the Washington Nationals' family to introduce our newest family member, Gio Gonzalez."
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo helped the 6'0'', 205 lb pitcher into his new Washington Nationals home white jersey, no. 47, handed him his first red curly-W cap and stood with the 26-year-old left-hander as he posed for photographers during Wednesday afternoon's introductory press conference. "He comes with a very long and successful resume as we all know," the Nats' general manager said as he introduced the pitcher acquired in a December 23rd trade with the Oakland A's. "[Gonzalez is] another building block for the Washington Nationals," Rizzo said, "A good young, talented player, All-Star at a young age, but also a player with high character, great make-up, great community spirit and a guy that's going to fit perfectly into our clubhouse and into our rotation."
"I'd like to thank the Lerner family for giving us the ingredients, if you will, to make such an important trade for the Washington Nationals," Rizzo said, before also thanking, "... the front office staff who worked so hard in the acquisition of Gio." The trade, which sent 23-year-old right-hander and '06 41st Round pick Brad Peacock, 24-year-old left-handed '08 10th Rounder Tom Milone, then-19-year-old 2010 4th Round pick righty A.J. Cole and Derek Norris, the Nats' top-ranked catching prospect and a 22-year-old '07 4th Round selection to Oakland for Gonzalez and A's '09 8th Round pick Robert Gilliam, a 24-year-old righty, was possible, Rizzo had explained just after the deal, because of the pitching depth present in the Nationals' system.
"I like our depth," the GM said in a conference call with reporters at the time, even after the trade, "I thought we were protected there with major league caliber pitching immediately there at the major league level. Don't forget we've got another wave of prospects coming, that I think will at least equal and possibly surpass the package of guys that we've given up in this trade. With the [Matt] Purkes and the [Sammy] Solises and the [Alex] Meyers of the world. Then we also have a wave behind them of the [Robbie] Rays and the [Paul] Demnys and those type of guys behind them. So, we feel that we're set up very, very well for the long haul.
"We've got a wave of pitchers coming behind them and even a further wave beyond that," Rizzo said, "and I put the onus on Roy Clark and Kris Kline and Doug Harris our farm director to keep identifying, signing and developing good, young, power starting pitching."
"I think it's an honor that the Nationals did that," Gonzalez, the new Nats' left-hander responded when he was asked Wednesday about the price in prospects the Nats had paid to get the top-of-the-rotation arm they were after all winter. "The players they gave up were outstanding ballplayers. I think that they're going to do a great job in Oakland. I think that this was, in my opinion, a fair trade. Where, when it's all said and done, Oakland was happy with their trade and I'm assuming the Nationals are happy with their trade. But I'm definitely the type of guy that I don't want to let you down. I will do anything and everything I can to make sure you got exactly what you wanted."
Gonzalez told reporters he was out to prove that the move the Nationals made was the right one. "I can't sleep unless I continue to strive and get better and better," the pitcher said at one point Wednesday, "I know that Mike [Rizzo] took a shot with me and I don't want to let him down."
The Nats' GM met with reporters after Gio Gonzalez's press conference and he was asked again about the depth in the organization that allowed the deal and just how important a factor the last few draft classes had been in the Nationals' decision-making process before making the deal...
"There's no question about it, our depth is the reason that you can make this trade. But that's the reason that you have a fertile farm system and scout and develop. This Gio trade is a testament to that. Our pro scouts identified this is the guy we need. Our amateur scouts drafted the guys to get us the depth in the organization to make the trade and our development developed those 41st Rounders, 10th Rounders, 4th Rounders and 4th Rounder to make these players good enough prospects that it intrigued Oakland to make this trade. The front office, the scouts, player development, they all had a hand in this. That's what this thing's all about. You scout and [develop prospects] to have players from your system help you in the major leagues, if not help you, you package them to get someone who can help you."
Asked if he felt GM's often overvalued their own prospects and had a hard time parting with them, the Nats' GM explained that, "The toughest thing to do is evaluate yourselves. That's why we have our top evaluators evaluate our system. I do it myself, and we have our top evaluators go through our entire system, we write reports on everyone one of our guys. And we do it not with rose-colored glasses on. We've got all self-assured people. When I tell Kris Kline or Roy Clark we don't like the 2nd Round pick or whatever it is and it's something that once we draft them and once we sign them, we've got to get a realistic evaluation of what these guys are and how they perform for us, because we have to know that we're getting better than we're giving. And that's the secret of this thing.
"As far as how general managers view their prospects. These guys are tough to move. You have relationships with these guys and it's like four of your children going to Oakland and it's tough. I had a great conversation with [Brad] Peacock and [Tom] Milone after we traded them. Like Gio said, he left that organization, it's a mixed bag and it's tough. But you can't get caught up in that. You've got to evaluate them and evaluate them withouth rose-colored glasses. You better know your organization better than anyone else knows it."
Is it any tougher with any of the prospects when you go out and pay well-above slot for a player like A.J. Cole? Was it any tougher to let go of a young kid like that?
"The amount I paid for anyone had nothing to do with that. It pained me to move a 6'4'', 19-year-old pitcher that has a good arm, there's no question about it, but you get that guy in the 4th Round because you overpay him, so, again, great scouting, ownership allowing you do those kind of outside the box things. The plan three years ago was to attack the draft before the new CBA. That was our focus, that was our vision, that was our strategy going into it three years ago and we did it, we attacked it for the last three years and I don't think you'll see a draft class like last year's because of the new CBA rules, so..."
After two winters of looking for the top of the rotation starter that you guys wanted, how satisfying is it as an organization to have him and not only have him, but have [Stephen] Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann all healthy now going into the year?
"We feel good about ourselves. We feel confident that we're going to be a competitive club in a real tough division. We like all six of our rotation guys. We love the top three guys. We feel comfortable that we have depth in the rotation. We like our four and five guys and there's going to be good competition at several spots and we feel comfortable with our bullpen. We're not done with our bullpen. We're trying to improve ourselves in the rotation and in the bullpen and any other way we can."
The Nationals announced that they had added Brad Lidge, who was apparently taking a physical Wednesday, to their bullpen on Thursday morning.