There's very little about Gio Gonzalez that Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo doesn't like. He throws four pitches, gobbles up innings and posts the kind of statistics that make opposing general managers drool with envy. In short, the southpaw is a power pitcher in a game where few hurlers can lay claim to that jb description.
If that wasn't evident by the left-hander's presence as the centerpiece of the six-player trade between the A's and Nationals that was finally announced Friday night, it came through loud and clear when Rizzo spoke this evening to local media once the deal became official.
"He brings a presence in our rotation," Rizzo said of Gonzalez. "He has had success. He has been a workhorse. He is very young. He just turned 26. He has accomplished a lot of things before his 26th birthday. It gives us a young core of starting pitchers at the major league level that is in the realm of something that we never had here before. So we are really pleased to have him."
The Nationals acquired Gonzalez, who was 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA in 32 starts last season, and minor league right-hander Robert Gilliam from the A's in exchange for four of their most heralded prospects: right-handers Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole, lefty Tommy Milone and catcher Derek Norris.
"To acquire a player like this you need to give up some painful players in return and we've done just that - four players who are near and dear to our hearts because we scouted them, drafted them, signed them and developed them," Rizzo said. "They were longstanding members of our organization and they'll be sorely missed. But to get a 26-year-old, controllable, affordable left-handed pitcher that has pitched in All-Star Games and is in the peak of his career, it takes a bundle of good, talented players."
After searching for the better part of two offseasons for a power pitcher to front his rotation, Rizzo got his man, trading away some of his prized, youthful organizational depth in order to facilitate the swap. Putting Gonzalez between right-handers Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann in the starting five gives the Nationals a formidable threesome that can match any top three starting pitchers in the National League East.
Rizzo tried unsuccessfully last winter to trade for the Royals' Zack Greinke before he was dealt to Milwaukee. This offseason, he made a contract offer to free agent left-hander Mark Buehrle, only to have Buehrle opt for more money and a longer term with the improving Miami Marlins. The Nationals were also linked to free agent left-hander C.J. Wilson before he inked a deal with the Angels and free agent right-hander Roy Oswalt, who remains on the market.
A month ago, Rizzo started talking to A's GM Billy Beane. The clubs started exchanging potential scenarios just before the Winter Meetings, and met a couple of times in Dallas. When Buehrle went to the Marlins, Rizzo and the Nationals stepped up their efforts to land Gonzalez. The Red Sox also made a run at the lefty, hoping to score a blockbuster deal including both Gonzalez and closer Andrew Bailey, but the Nationals' package of young players won out.
"Being left-handed was really the key to this," Rizzo said. "We feel that he matches very nicely in between our two power right-handers in this division. It's important to have at least a couple of left-handers in the rotation and a couple of left-handers in the bullpen because of the talented left-handed hitting of players on the other team."
The addition of Gonzalez gives the Nationals a starting rotation of Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, right-hander Chien-Ming Wang and left-hander John Lannan. The trade likely means that Ross Detwiler's best chance of making the club out of spring training will be as a long reliever, a spot he'll have to wrestle from Tom Gorzelanny.
However, with guys like Gorzelanny, Detwiler and right-handers Craig Stammen and Yuneksy Maya on the 40-man roster, Rizzo could also make a pitcher available in a trade to help fill another need.
"Even with this trade, we've got great depth in the starting rotation," Rizzo said.