Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo dealt then-23-year-old right-handed prospect Alex Meyer to the Minnesota Twins last winter in exchange for Denard Span. First baseman Adam LaRoche returned on a two-year deal and the addition of another outfielder to the mix in Span allowed Rizzo to trade Michael Morse in a three-team deal with the Mariners and A's that brought right-handers A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen and left-hander Ian Krol back. Cole, 21 at the time, was a 2010 Nats' 4th Round pick who'd been dealt to Oakland the previous winter in the deal that landed Gio Gonzalez.
Rizzo insisted on Cole's inclusion once the A's got involved in the talks with the Seattle Mariners and Nationals. He was willing to deal Morse because he felt Tyler Moore possessed a similar skill set.
"To have two of them is almost redundant," Rizzo explained in a conference call with reporters that winter. "And [Morse] with one year left of control only, we felt that we had an ample substitute in a more-controllable Tyler Moore and we figured that with the outlay of prospects to get the club that we have, we felt that Mike would recoup some of those prospects for us. Especially with the trade of Alex Meyer to obtain Denard Span, we felt that A.J. Cole kind of replaces his spot in our minor league system."
Cole followed up on a rough season in the Athletics' organization with a strong 2013 campaign which started at High-A Potomac. Cole went (6-3) in 18 starts with a 4.25 ERA and a 3.54 FIP, 23 walks (2.13 BB/9) and 102 Ks (9.43 K/9) in 97 1/3 IP for the P-Nats before moving up and pitching for Double-A Harrisburg where he was (4-2) with a 2.18 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 10 walks (1.99 BB/9) and 49 Ks (9.73 K/9) in seven starts and 45 1/3 IP for the Senators.
Cole represented the Nationals' organizaton at the All-Star Futures Game last summer, he's in camp with the Nationals this spring as a non-roster invite and he was ranked the no.2 prospect in the organization by Baseball America this winter, behind only 2012 1st Round pick Lucas Giolito.
Blake Treinen is in camp with the Nats this spring too.
Ian Krol was dealt to the Detroit Tigers this winter along with 25-year-old utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi and 22-year-old, 2010 12th Round pick Robbie Ray, the top-ranked left-hander in the Nats' organization in Baseball America's estimation.
The Nationals didn't want to trade Ray at first according to what Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowski and Rizzo told FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal in an article published today.
"'We had a list of about 15 pitchers that we would consider in various deals,'" Dombrowski explained. "'He was one of the 15. The other 14 people said no. And (the Nationals) said no at first.'"
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Rizzo told Rosenthal he was reluctant to include Ray, a 12th Round pick who was available there because of a college commitment and therefore got "second-round" money ($799K), but he was included when the deal was worked out after 2 ½ weeks of talks.
"'By no means was it painless,'" Rizzo explained. "'We're not pounding our chest on that one.'"
Rizzo acquired Fister in the deal with the Tigers to bolster the Nationals' rotation. Jerry Blevins was added to the bullpen in a trade with the Athletics. Free agent outfielder Nate McLouth joined the bench as a fourth outfielder, taking a 2-year/$10.75M deal. Rizzo then went after a backup catcher who could play every day if Wilson Ramos dealt with injuries again this year.
Discussions with Tampa Bay eventually led to a deal that sent 26-year-old right-hander Nathan Karns to the Rays in return for 29-year-old catcher Jose Lobaton, 22-year-old lefty Felipe Rivero and 22-year-old outfield prospect Drew Vettleson. Lobaton gave the Nationals a backup option who could start if needed, and Rivero, according to reports in the Washington Post effectively replaced Ray/Krol in the organization.
Nationals' coach Livan Hernandez told reporters this week he was really impressed with Rivero. Rizzo said after the deal he thought Rivero had huge upside. Rays' GM Andrew Friedman said he thought Karns was a potential 200-inning arm. Alex Meyer was the top-ranked pitching prospect in the Twins' organization this winter and he's in camp with Minnesota this spring. Krol could end up in the Tigers' pen this season, with Ken Rosenthal writing today that he, "...could develop into a no.1 left-hander out of the bullpen." Dave Dombrowski thinks Ray will start at Triple-A and potentially help in the majors this season.
When A's GM Billy Beane talked to ESPN.com's Buster Olney about dealing with Mike Rizzo in 2012, he said they were able to work out deals because the Nationals' General Manager was, "very straightforward and very decisive... He doesn't take the approach that it's got to be a zero-sum deal -- 'I win, you lose.'"
The Twins were happy with the return on Span. Dave Dombrowski was convinced he got the best deal he could. The Rays dealt from a strength to get pitching depth they wanted. The Nationals are primed for another run and they've restocked depth in the organization they dealt away while also bolstering the major league roster.