Gio Gonzalez was traded from the West Coast to the East Coast for four top prospects out of the Washington Nationals minor league system. The Oakland A's sent Gonzalez to Washington in exchange for Catcher Derek Norris, RHP A.J. Cole, RHP Brad Peacock, and LHP Tommy Milone.
For now, most of us have seen the movie 'Money Ball' with Billy Beane and the A's organization, and most of us baseball fans should know how that system operates. This trade would come as no surprise for Beane and the A's as they hold the High-Risk, High-Reward button.
Gio went 16-12 in 2011 for the A's with a 3.12 ERA, 197 K and 91 BB. Those impressive numbers were just not a one year wonder, as he had similar numbers in 10' holding a 3.23 ERA, 171 K, and 92 BB. In his fourth year in the MLB so far, Gio has been eased into the pitching rotation. Only pitching a combined 134 innings in 2008 and 2009, and only being 26 years old coming into his prime, he exceeded the 200 innings pitched mark in the previous two years. Gonzalez will be in a starting rotation of RHP Stephen Strasburg, RHP Jordan Zimmerman, LHP John Lannan, and newly acquired RHP Edwin Jackson, with RHP Chien-Ming Wang holding the 6th overall rotation spot. Rumor mill is the Nationals are currently shopping LHP John Lannan for an outfielder. Gio should hold the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Strasburg and in front of Jackson. This puts the Nationals rotation in the top 10 of rotations in the MLB.
A.J. Cole who I believe made this deal happen is just 20 years old. At 6' 4" and weighing in at 180lbs, Cole provides a very high upside to his new organization. Cole was drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft. Cole spent the entire 2011 season in my back yard of Low-A Hagerstown Suns, where his numbers do not show much justice to his overall performance. He went 4-7 with a 4.04 ERA. Cole managed to allow just below one H/9, with 87 H in 89 IP. His over powering fastball allowed him to have 108/K in just those 89 IP with a SO/9 of 10.9. Cole has 2 main pitches with an over powering 4 seem, which sits consistently at 93-95 mph, and an above average curveball with knockout potential, which sits at 75-80 mph.
Catcher Derek Norris who is still a top catching prospect has slipped down the Nats rankings and the catching prospect rankings. Norris was also drafted in the 4th round, but of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft. Norris came on strong starting in 2008 in the NY Penn League Vermont team, where he played a total of 70 games. In 227 AB, he hit for a .278 BA, hitting 10 HR, 38 RBI, and a total 63 H, with 12 extra base hits. He busted onto top prospect status in 2009 with the Hagerstown Suns, in 126 games Norris batted .286, 23 HR, 84 RBI with 30 extra base hits. As his promotions came to High-A and Double-A, his production did not follow. He struggled a bit at Potomac hitting for .235 BA, 12 HR and 49 RBI in just 94 games. In 2011 at Harrisburg, his power showed as usual, however the contact was invisible. In 104 games, he hit .210 with 20 HR, 46 RBI, and just 18 extra base hits with a total of 70 hits.
RHP Brad Peacock, who I believe out of the 4 prospects, has the better chance of making the squad out of spring training. Peacock was drafted in the 41st round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft. His most notable years in the minor leagues were this past year, while splitting between AA Harrisburg and AAA Syracuse. In a combined year he went 15-3, with a 2.39 ERA. Brad had a total of 177/K with a K/9 ratio of 10.9, pitching in a total of 146 IP. Making two starting appearances and one relieving appearances in 2011 with the Nationals he had an overall record of 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 4/K, and 6/BB. In 12 IP, he allowed 7/H, however in his two starts he pitched five innings plus, allowing only 3/H, however, in his 1.1 IP of relief he allowed 4/H, with 1 ER allowed, with earning the BS.
LHP Tommy Milone was drafted in the 10th round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft. Milone quickly worked his way from the NY Penn League in 2008 to AAA Syracuse in 2011. His most notable years in the Nats system were 09' through 11'. In 2009 while at High-A Potomac, he went 12-5 with a 2.91 ERA. Pitching a total of 151 IP with 106/K, and a WHIP of 1.189. In 2010 with the Senators he posted a record of 12-5, with a 2.85 ERA. Milone pitched a total of 158 IP, and 155/K with a 1.165 WHIP. In 2011 at AAA Syracuse, he went 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA, pitching a total of 148 IP, and 155/K. Milone stayed consistent throughout the 2009 through 2011 season. Milone was a September call-up pitching in a total of 26 IP. His line was 1-0, 3.81 ERA, 15/K, 4/BB with a WHIP of 1.23. Although Milone pitched in more games than Peacock, I believe they both might have a shot at the starting rotation just giving the edge to Peacock. Pending injuries during spring training, they both could end up in the starting 5.
I believe the A's starting rotation will end up being Dallas Braden, Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy, Jarrod Parker, and Brad Peacock. Pending Parkers injury history, Milone could sneak into his spot or take Peacock out of the starting rotation. It is always hard to gamble with prospects that hold the High-risk buttons, so I give the edge to the Nationals on this trade.