Mike Rizzo said including 2010 4th Round pick A.J. Cole in the deal that landed Gio Gonzalez was the "toughest part" of the trade with the Oakland A's. Cole, fellow right-hander Brad Peacock, lefty Tommy Milone and catcher Derek Norris were what the Athletics received in return for parting with Gonzalez.
"We were fortunate to involve Oakland," Rizzo said, fortunate, "... that they needed a player from Seattle that Seattle was willing to give up for them, and we demanded that the deal had to have A.J. Cole in it or there wasn't going to be a deal."
The player the A's wanted was catcher John Jaso.
The Mariners got Morse.
Three years after the Nats gave Cole a well-above slot $2M signing bonus to forego a commitment to the University of Miami, Rizzo got him back.
The Nationals' General Manager assured reporters they were scouting him throughout his campaign in the A's organization, and they were sure any struggles Cole experienced with the High-A California League's Stockton Ports, where he was (0-7) with a 7.82 ERA, a 4.99 FIP, 10 walks (2.37 BB/9) and 31 Ks (7.34 K/9) in eight starts and 38 IP, were behind him by the time the season ended.
Cole was (6-3) in 19 starts and 95 ⅔ IP after moving from Stockton to the Midwest League's Burlington Bees, the A's low-A affiliate, where he walked 19 (1.79 BB/9) and K'd 102 (9.60 K/9).
"His developmental curve is on track, and we're going to get him with our pitching people and kind of straighten out his delivery," Rizzo said. "And I think that this guy will be a quick mover for us from this point forward."
In 2013, Cole started at High-A in the Nationals' system, going (6-3) with a 4.25 ERA, a 3.54 FIP, 23 walks (2.13 BB/9) and 102 Ks (9.43 K/9) in 18 starts and 97 ⅓ IP.
In seven starts after a jump to Double-A, Cole was (4-2) with a 2.18 ERA, a 2.56 FIP, 10 walks (1.99 BB/9) and 49 Ks (9.73 K/9) in 45 ⅓ IP.
Baseball America ranked Cole no.2 in the Nats' organization on their 2014 list of Washington's Top 10 prospects with BA's Aaron Fitt writing that he, "thrived in his return to the organization and established himself as one of Washington’s top prospects."
He started the 2014 season back at Harrisburg, where he was (6-3) in 14 starts with a 2.92 ERA, a 2.65 FIP, 15 walks (1.90 BB/9) and 61 Ks (7.73 K/9) in 71 IP before the announcement on Friday that, as rumored, he was making the jump to Triple-A Syracuse:
Cole's joining a Syracuse Chiefs team that is 49-32 with a 5.0 game lead in the International League's North Division after a loss on Friday.