Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, speaking during Rafael Soriano’s introductory press conference, said he was excited to be able to get a talent like right-hander A.J. Cole back in the organization.
Rizzo said the deal to get a prospect like Cole, and right-hander Blake Treinen, would not have been possible by just talking to the Seattle Mariners. In his discussions with Seattle, he was able to get the Oakland A’s involved, and that is how Cole, Treinen and a player to be named were traded to the Nationals.
Despite Cole’s struggles at high Single-A Stockton last season, he bounced back at low Single-A Burlington. Rizzo is not fazed by Cole’s rough introduction with Oakland.
“We scouted him quite a bit this season,” Rizzo said. “Believe me, I have a lot of experience with that California League. That California League has made a mockery of a lot of good starting pitchers. His stuff was fine. His delivery wandered a little bit throughout the season.
“He righted the ship when they sent him to the Midwest League and dominated that league as a 20-year old. We feel that he is on course. His developmental curve is on track and we are going to get him with our pitching people and kind of straighten out his delivery. I think he will be a quick mover for us from this point forward. He is a big, strong man now.”
Rizzo remembers the Athletics asking for Cole in the trade that eventually got Gio Gonzalez to the Nats and he is thrilled to be able to get Cole returned.
“He was the toughest part for me in the package for Gio,” Rizzo said. “Strange things happen in baseball. In this situation, this was the key component of a trade that we could make. We were fortunate to involve Oakland. They needed a player from Seattle. The deal had to have A.J. Cole in it or there wasn’t going to be a deal. Couple that with the pieces we got in the trade and we feel very fortunate we got the package we got for one year of control of Michael Morse.”
Morse was traded to the Mariners, the team he used to play for. After four seasons, 67 homers and 208 RBIs, Morse became a fan favorite in D.C. and certainly with Rizzo.
“The phone call with Mike was kind of bittersweet,” Rizzo said. “He handled it terrifically. We have a great relationship. Mike is an easy guy to like. Although he was moving on to the next chapter in his career, he told me he appreciated everything we had done for him and I told him we appreciated everything he has done for us and go out, have a good year and make a lot of money.”
Ultimately, Rizzo felt that the breakthrough season Tyler Moore displayed with the Nats last year would be help make up for for the loss of Morse.
“They have very similar skill sets and to have two of them is almost redundant,” Rizzo said. “We felt we had an ample substitute in a more controllable Tyler Moore. We figured with the outlay of prospects to get the club that we have we felt that Mike would recoup some of those prospects for us. Especially with the trade of Alex Meyer, Cole kind of replaces his spot in our minor league system.”
Rizzo is also pleased with the acquisition of Treinen. The South Dakota State product went 7-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 24 games (15 starts) for Stockton. He had 92 strikeouts and 23 walks in 103 innings.
“He’s a big physical strong kid, 6-4, 220 with a big arm,” Rizzo said. “He had been up to 96-97 mph. He started and relieved for them. He’s going to begin his career with us as a starter. We’ll stretch him out. He’s a power pitcher with power stuff from a very small, non-baseball school. So we feel he’s going to be a late bloomer. And like a lot of those guys from the northern part of the country, he didn’t play many games in college and really just since he started his professional career has he played with any consistency.”