WASHINGTON – Christmas is just a few days away, and in the past the holiday vibe hasn’t stopped general manager Mike Rizzo of the Nationals from making his appointed rounds – of trades.
That may not be the case this year, with the lockout by the owners forcing a shutdown of movement from players on a 40-man roster.
But 10 years ago today, just two days before Christmas in 2011, Rizzo and staff pulled off a holiday surprise in one of many trades the club has made with the Oakland A’s.
The Nationals sent pitchers A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, and Brad Peacock and catcher Derek Norris to the Oakland A’s for lefty pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Robert Gilliam, a minor league hurler.
Cole, Milone, Peacock, and Norris were drafted and developed by the Nationals. Peacock, in fact, grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida, which would later become the Spring Training home of the Nationals.
Gonzalez, who grew up in the Miami area, was a first-round draft pick out of high school by the Chicago White Sox in 2004.
He began his pro career with Bristol in the Appalachian League in the White Sox’ system, then after the 2005 season, he was traded to the Phillies.
After the 2006 season, he was traded by the Phils back to the White Sox in a deal that sent Maryland native Gavin Floyd to Chicago as well.
Before the 2008 season, Gonzalez was traded by the White Sox with two other players to Oakland for Nick Swisher.
Gonzalez made his debut in the majors with Oakland in 2008.
After he joined Washington, the lefty was part of the first division-title team with the Nationals in 2012. Gonzalez won a league-high 21 games that season with the Nats.
While he enjoyed success in the regular season, Gonzalez couldn’t get over the hump in the playoffs.
He famously was the starting pitcher for the Nationals at home in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against St. Louis, as the Cardinals came back from a 6-0 deficit and won the game against Nats’ closer Drew Storen in the ninth inning.
Gonzalez won at least 10 games in every season that he was part of the rotation with the Nationals.
During the 2018 season, he was traded by Washington to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Gonzalez saw action in the majors with the Brewers in 2019, then pitched in 12 games, with four starts, with the White Sox in 2020 in his last season before retiring.
He was 131-101 with an ERA of 3.70 in 344 games in the majors, with 328 starts.
In the postseason in eight starts – six with Washington and two with Milwaukee – he didn’t register a decision while posting an ERA of 4.91.
“It has been great, man,” Peacock told this reporter during Spring Training in 2018 after winning the World Series with the Astros.
“Real busy but it was all worth it. It is what you dream of as a little boy. It came true for all of us.”
Cole pitched in six games for Toronto in 2021. Milone pitched for Washington in 2018 then was with Toronto this past season.
Norris, a fourth-round pick of the Nationals in 2007, last played in the majors with Oakland in 2017. He was an All-Star with the A’s in 2014, before being suspended by MLB three years later over domestic abuse issues.
“Mr. Norris cooperated throughout the investigation, including submitting to an in-person interview with MLB’s Department of Investigations,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement in 2017. “After reviewing the evidence, I determined that Mr. Norris’ conduct warranted discipline.”