Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nationals Acquire Gonzalez

Keith Law had it first.
Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals for AJ Cole, Derek Norris, Brad Peacock, and Tom Milone.

Big cost, but Nats have a 1-2-3 of Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann all under control for at least 4 more years.

I was in the middle of doing my Nats top 10 prospects, but after trading 33% of them in this deal I guess I'm going to have to re-work that now. I will update this later with some more in depth analysis, but looks like a win-win for both clubs. The remaining question is how do they fill that CF void without the trade pieces they just gave up?

The real prize for the A's in this deal is AJ Cole, he is the pick I begged the Orioles to make. The Nationals turned the$2m bonus they paid him into a key piece for boosting their rotation. Let's take a closer look at the pieces the Nationals gave up in this deal:

Brad Peacock: Some see him as the centerpiece of this deal, I don't agree personally, but I can see where some would say that. He's got a plus fastball that sits 94-95, however, there is little movement on it, it's pretty flat. He's also got a knuckle curve that is a plus pitch, think Mike Mussina level, it's a hard power curve, and he will use it both as a chase pitch and a break-over-the-plate pitch. He tends to reach back and overthrow the FB leaving it high, which sometimes results in strikeouts, but could be a risk against ML pitching, and the curve he likes to throw in the dirt when ahead in the count, so I hope the catchers have all their gear on. Brad's change is pretty weak, I'd be stretching if I called it an average pitch right now, but some improvement on that pitch could really take him into all-star starter territory. The problem is without that pitch, he's a two-pitch, power pitcher which screams RP. I think he has the tools to start with a little more refinement, and worst case is you could be looking an elite closer, but I'm on the fence which way he falls.

AJ Cole: This is the guy I think is the key to this deal. Cole sits comfortably around 92 and can dial it up to 94 when he needs to with his FB, it's got good movement, flashing plus at time, mostly running in on RHP and away from LHP. He's also got a slurve that has good differential from the FB, coming in around 78, that's almost a 15mph change of pace. He uses it as a chase pitch when he's ahead, and not so much when he's behind. His change is average, but still in better shape than Peacock's, so with two above-avg. to plus pitches and another average pitch, he's in very good shape at only 20 years old (in 2 weeks). With a long way to go, there is some improvement you could still see, and right now he's a darn good pitcher. This is the guy I could see being better than Gio out of the deal.

Derek Norris: Norris has good power, and plate discipline, he's a walk machine and looks to be a decent catcher with a good arm, but he's always struggled to hit for average, and could face a problem as he moves further up the ladder and sees less and less mistakes from opposing pitchers. It's easy to lay off really bad pitches, it's not as easy to lay off pitches that are right on the edge of the zone. He tends to step towards the baseline instead of the pitcher, which makes him vulnerable on the outside part of the plate. Still, with catchers being so hard to come by, Norris' power and batting eye make him an intriguing prospect. Especially for teams like OAK with such a high value on OBP.

Tom Milone: He was the guy OAK was holding out for, I'm not sure I would let him become a deal breaker in any deal, which is why WAS ultimately gave him up, but that's not to say he won't be a decent player. Milone is a softer tossing LHP with great control, that in itself can be very helpful on a ML staff, and he is ready for the big leagues. I guess OAK wanted him to fill one of the spots in the rotation on the short term. He's got a high 80's FB which is pretty average, but added a cutter this past season which has been pretty successful when used correctly. His curve has good separation from his FB in the mid 70's and great control of this too, but his real bread and butter is his change up. Milone has plus command with almost all of his pitches, and his change looks above average/plus itself. Pitchers with great command are hard to find, and tend to last a long time in this league, but when you are a soft tossing LHP with great control, it makes your pitches always around the plate, and hittable. He looks to be a serviceable starter, but he's going to have to work very hard on spotting his pitches and keeping them out of danger areas.

All in all, it was a lot of potential to give up for a pitcher, but when that pitcher is a LHP SP with proven success at the ML level, and under control for 4 more years, it looks like a win for both sides.

The improvement in the rotation weighs against the hole in CF with the offseason winding down. If WAS were to go out and sign Cespedes on top of getting Gio, there is more talent in the minors, and this team could be gearing up to take the NL East, not just for the next couple years, but for the long term.

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