Mike Rizzo reluctantly parted with 2010 fourth-round pick A.J. Cole in the December 2011 trade with the Oakland A's that brought Gio Gonzalez to the nation's capital in return for Cole, left-hander Tom Milone, right-hander Brad Peacock and catcher Derek Norris.
Given a chance to reacquire Cole a year later when the Athletics got involved in three-team talks with the Nationals and Seattle Mariners, Rizzo pulled the trigger on a deal that brought the 21-year-old Cole back to the organization that drafted and signed him to a well-above slot deal. That convinced the pitcher, considered by some unlikely to sign, to forego his commitment to the University of Miami and start his professional career.
Cole had a tough experience in the hitter-friendly Single-A California League in his one year in the A's system, but that didn't concern the Nationals general manager, who was happy to get the right-hander back.
"The right players had to be involved, or we wouldn't have made the deal," Rizzo explained after the Nationals sent Michael Morse to Seattle, while catcher John Jaso went from the Mariners to the A's with Cole, right-hander Blake Treinen and a player to be named later, who ended up being left-handed reliever Ian Krol, coming to Washington. "Once the right players were involved and players that we really wanted for a talented player like Michael, I didn't find any reason not to do the deal. So when A.J. became part of the deal and we got two others pieces, then that was the deal that I felt was the deal to pull the trigger on."
"(Cole) was toughest part for me of the package for Gio," Rizzo told reporters after he got the pitcher back. The plan was to get Cole working with Nationals pitching coaches again and back on the developmental track he was on before being dealt to the A's. In Cole, Treinen and the PTBNL that wasn't announced until weeks later, Rizzo said he got what he wanted in return for Morse, who was a man without a position when Denard Span was acquired and Adam LaRoche re-signed.
"We feel very fortunate to get the package that we did for one year of control of Michael Morse," the GM said. In March, Ian Krol was named as the final player in the deal.
When LaRoche struggled at the plate to start this season and Morse continued to hit, the GM was asked on his weekly radio show on 106.7 the Fan in D.C. if he regretted trading Morse.
"We got three power arms for (Morse) that are going to help us in the near-future," Rizzo said, "Treinen is in Double-A throwing extremely well, up to 97-98 mph. A.J. Cole is really starting to take the next step. He'll end up in Double-A this year. Treinen will end up in Triple-A and Ian Krol is a reliever in Double-A at 22 years old, who is a power lefty who has, I think he's got a (1.10) ERA in Double-A."
For Krol, the "near-future" arrived quicker than most probably expected. The left-handed reliever had a 0.69 ERA in 21 games and 26 innings pitched before he was called up to the majors a few weeks after Rizzo's comments. The former A's prospect made his major league debut June 5. In seven appearances with the Nationals, Krol has yet to allow a run, throwing 6 2/3 scoreless so far. The Nats showed a lot of faith in the left-hander, bringing him up as quickly as they did, and Davey Johnson even turned to him late in a big pressure situation in Wednesday's game in Philadelphia.
With the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins on first with two outs after Tyler Clippard walked him in the ninth inning of a 2-2 game, the Nationals manager brought Krol in to face Ryan Howard. Krol walked the big slugger, but popped Domonic Brown up in the next at bat to keep it tied at 2-2 in a game the Nats went on to win on Ian Desmond's 11th-inning grand slam. It was the biggest appearance yet for the player to be named later in the Morse trade.
Meanwhile, in the advanced Single-A Carolina League this week, Cole was named the Pitcher of the Week for the second time this year after throwing seven scoreless innings in which he struck out 10 and allowed just four hits as the Potomac Nationals clinched the first-half Northern Division Championship. On the year, Cole is now 4-2 with a 4.16 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in 71 1/3 innings pitched for the P-Nats. Treinen, 25, is 6-6 with a 3.54 ERA in his first exposure at Double-A.
Nationals fans may miss Morse, and the Nats might miss his offensive contributions, but the deal that sent him to Seattle is already paying dividends at several levels of the Nats organization. Not a bad early return for one year of control of Morse.
Patrick Reddington blogs about the Nationals for Federal Baseball and appears here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.