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Nationals and Athletics agree on SP Gio Gonzalez trade

The Washington Nationals believe that their time is now.  On Thursday they sent four of their prized prospects to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for All-Star LHP Gio Gonzalez.  Going to Oakland will be RHP A.J. Cole, RHP Brad Peacock, LHP Tommy Milone, and Catcher Derek Norris for Gonzalez and minor league RHP Rob Gilliam.

Blockbuster trades have been plentiful for the month of December, with the Oakland Athletics being the key player twice now.  Two weeks ago the Athletics dealt pitchers Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for RHP Jarrod Parker, OF Collin Cowgill, and relief pitcher Ryan Cook.  We broke that deal down here.

Last weekend the Cincinnati Reds were at it when they sent RHP Edison Volquez, 1B/OF Yonder Alonso, C Yasmani Grandal, and RP Brad Boxberger to the San Diego Padres for emerging ace, RHP Matt Latos.  You can view the details of that trade here.

This time around, it’s the Washington Nationals, as they try their hand at being a contender in the National League East.  The prize: 26-year-old Gio Gonzalez, should give the Nationals a formidable starting 3 along with Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman.  Gonzalez has now been traded 3 times.  After being drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2004, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of package that would bring Slugger Jim Thome to Chicago in 2005.  In 2006, He was dealt back to the White Sox from the Phillies in a deal that would send pitcher Freddy Garcia to the Phillies.  In 2008 the White Sox, who would give up on Gonzalez and his control issue, sent him in a package to Oakland for OF Nick Swisher.

After 4 seasons in Oakland, Gonzalez still has some command issues, however his K/9 is going up and his BB/9 is going down, which a good sign and why he’s enjoyed back to back winning seasons.  Over 4 seasons in Oakland Gio has a 38-32 record, with 3.93 ERA, 511 K, and 266 BB in 535.1 innings pitched.  Look for a continued improvement with the Nationals as he moves to the NL East and simply because Gonzalez is the type of lefty that will get better as he matures.

We recently revised our Oakland Athletics 2012 Top 10 Prospects List and we released our Washington Nationals Top 2012 Top 10 Prospects list back in November.  Look for new revisions for both clubs this weekend.  Let’s take a look at the players going to the Athletics from the Nationals.

Here’s what I wrote about A.J. Cole in our top 10 preview:

3. A.J. Cole, RHP 1/5/1992 H: 6’4 W: 180 lbs – The 2010 4th round pick of the Nationals went 4-7 with a 4.04 ERA, a 10.92 K/9 and a 2.43 BB/9 ratio in 89 innings over 20 games with Single-A Hagerstown of the SAL at age 19.  He started the 2011 season at extended spring training in an attempt to limit his overall innings.  Our own Aaron Bentley did a nice write-up on back in August – Prospect Instinct | A.J. Cole.  Cole is the top pitching prospect in the Nationals system, but Brad Peacock, Sammy Solis, Alex Meyer, Robbie Ray, and Matt Purke (who fell out of our top 10 consideration with decreased velocity and a train wreck AFL season – more on him in our top 21 review) could all have better careers.

Our Instinct – He’s not the future #1.B for the Nationals that a lot of people think he will be.  He’s not Cliff Lee to Stephen Strasburg’s Roy Halladay.  What is he? He is a kid who can, if his change-up comes around and he can dial-up the fastball, be a very good #3 and possibly even a the Nationals #2.  I like his stuff, but lets see him be dominant at a level of the minors before we get too crazy.

And about Brad Peacock….

4. Brad Peacock, RHP 2/2/1988 H: 6’1 W: 175 lbs – Peacock possess a solid three pitch repertoire that includes a 90-95 mph fastball, curveball, and a change-up.   Consistency of his change-up is a work in progress and his fastball command could be better.  Durability could be an issue unless he builds some more muscle.  Peacock has come a long way as a prospect, especially considering he was drafted in the 41st round of the 2006 draft. He made his MLB debut in 2011.  Peacock pitched well at Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League, going 10-2 with a 2.01 ERA, 11.77 K/9, and a 2.10 BB/9 ratio in 16 games.  At Triple-A Syracuse of the International League he went 5-1 with a 3.19 ERA, 9.00 K/9, and a 4.50 BB/9 ratio in 9 games.  Tom Belmont recently broke his stuff down in his Prospect Instinct | Brad Peacock.

Our Instinct – The margin of error for Peacock to become a productive back of the rotation starter or a high-leverage late inning setup man comes down to his change-up.  The Nationals have plenty of pitching talent in the organization and don’t have to settle here.  I don’t see him spending anytime in the minors in 2012 unless the wheels come off the bus.  He should be given every chance to be in the National’s rotation out of spring and will be in for a fight in 2013 and beyond to hold off the kids in the organization.

Lastly, I touched on Derek Norris:

8. Derek Norris, C 2/14/1989 H: 6’0 W: 210 – At first glance the drop in batting average 3 years straight (.286 to .235 to .210) for Norris is concerning.  His triple slash of .210/.367/.446 in 2011 is puzzling as this gave him a .236 ISoP.  He’s got good pop in his bat and can get on base and steal bases, despite striking out a ton.  He’s currently hitting .304/.398/.420 with a 12/12 K/BB ratio in 69 at bats in the Arizona Fall League, so perhaps there is hope there yet.  He’s got a good arm and can throw runners out, his game calling could use some work.

Our Instinct – After hitting .210 in the Eastern League, Norris is probably headed back there again for 2012.  With Wilson Ramos safe and secure after his kidnapping, there’s no reason to push Norris to the big leagues in 2012.  This could be a rebound year for Norris, or it could be an indicator of where his career is going.  The potential of an everyday catcher with some pop and a little speed, or a back up catcher who can provide a pinch hit home run from time to time.  We will see.

LHP Tom Milone is another guy with nice numbers but, unlike Peacock, We doubt his stuff can hold up at the major league level.  His command is very good, however his stuff is lacking and I’m not sure he can get major hitters out on a consistent basis – despite having a nice major league debut, posting 1-0 record with a 3.81 ERA, 15 K, and 4 BB in 26 innings over 5 starts.

As I mentioned earlier, look for a revised write-up for both clubs top 10, with some changes to the mentioned players in relationship to being with the Athletics now, as well as previous unlisted players moving into the top 10 for the Nationals

Check back soon as we profile more Top 10 Lists for each MLB team and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at a recent article in this series: Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Top 10 Prospects List and be a step ahead of the game. Also, check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at mailbag@baseballinstinct.com.


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