A couple of months ago I strung together a few paragraphs on the Gio Gonzalez trade (here). While most writers are fond of making predictions, very few are fond of revisiting said predictions, but luckily for all of you, I am not a writer nor am I an esteemed member of the media. I'm just some loser who lives in his parents basement and blogs about baseball while eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew. Okay, so that last part isn't true, but I didn't want to upset anyone's stereotypes of Interwebz bloggers.
A couple of months in, the Gio Gonzalez trade looks like a great one for the Nats. Still, any trade that involves prospects isn't something that can be properly evaluated in the first--or even second--year of the trade. Often times, by the time this trade can be accurately evaluated all of these players careers will be over. But since I'm not concerned with being overly accurate (what fun would that be?), we can go ahead and assess this trade now.
A couple of months ago, I ranked the A's Gio haul as follows: Cole, Peacock, Norris, Milone. At the time, I said that I thought Peacock would develop into a solid bullpen arm and Cole a solid #2, while Milone and Norris were destined to become AAAA players. Looking back, I would divert your attention from this fact and direct your eyes toward this, "[Gonzalez is] 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." So I screwed the pooch with the prospect predictions, but hey Gio Gonzalez!
Thus far this year, Gonzalez' BB/9 is at a career low 3.65, while his k/9 has jumped to 11.53. While some of that jump in strikeouts can be attributed to changing leagues, and consequently striking out more pitchers, I doubt he's getting 2+ k's per game from the opposing pitcher. Gonzalez has been the beneficiary of a very kind .232 BABIP, however, his LOB% has been a very normal 78.1%. So while Gonzalez has been a little lucky, he hasn't been overly lucky and has raised his game in a few key areas. Essentially, he went from an All-Star caliber pitcher to a Cy Young caliber pitcher. Oh yeah, and in case you missed it, he's left handed. Which puts him a class with Cole "Fake Tough" Hamels, C.C. Sabathia and well, that's it.
As for the players Oakland got, Millone has exceeded expectations posting a 3.64 ERA, but with just a 4.9 K/9. Not to be a naysayer, who is always naysaying, but Millone's FIP of 4.17 and xFIP of 4.27 suggest that he's been fairly lucky and/or is enjoying pitching in the spacious confines of Oakland Coliseum. Still, he wouldn't have made the Nats rotation this year and wouldn't have been the best pitcher in Syracuse if the Nats had kept him. Which is all just an effort divert your attention from my wrongness thus far.
Next up is Brad Peacock, who still needs to develop another pitch, but has gotten shelled this season in AAA, posting an ERA of 4.91. Which is bad even in the hitter friendly PCL. Still, at just 24 Peacock has time on his side.
The guy that somewhat hurts the Nationals right now is Derek Norris. Who--if he hadn't been traded--would currently be the Nationals starting catcher, although he probably would have gotten hurt shortly after assuming that role. Who knows maybe Norris put some kind of curse on the Nats catchers after being traded. Still Norris is absolutely raking in AAA. Even in the PCL a catcher posting a wOBA of .371 is pretty significant. However, somewhat disturbing is that Norris' BB% is at an all time low for him at 6.8%, given that he posted BB% of over 20% each of the last three years and this is obviously a change in his approach or a SSS, but probably the latter.
Finally, as for A.J. Cole he has not been good. In 8 starts this year he's thrown up an ERA of 7.82. No need to dig in to the numbers with an ERA like that, even bad luck can't account for an ERA that high. Still, Cole is only 20 years old and has plenty of time on his side.
When you add it all up, Mike Rizzo is a genius and/or is one lucky man. Given his tirade about Fake Tough Hamels, I don't know that he's a genius, but when I take in to account the signing of one Adam LaRoche, I don't think you could say he's lucky either, but who cares how it happened, Gio Gonzalez is Pretty Frickin Bueno.