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Gio Gonzalez Dealt To Washington for Four Prospects

December 22, 2011

Gio Gonzalez‘ tenure as an Oakland Athletic has come to its end as Billy Beane sent the southpaw to the nation’s capital in return for Nats prospects, A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, Derek Norris and Brad Peacock. It is a significant haul as Cole (#4), Norris (#9) and Peacock (#3) were all in Baseball America’s recently released Top 10 Prospects for the Nationals, and while Milone did not make the cut, he was rated as having their organizations best changeup and control – in stark contrast to Gonzalez who walked more hitters than any other pitcher in MLB the past two seasons. Gonzalez, the unquestioned ace on the 2011 team – despite Brandon McCarthy‘s better defense-independent statistics – had been rumored to be traded for a good chunk of the offseason after a season that saw him go post a 3.12 ERA, with a 3.64 FIP in 202 innings of 3.5 WAR work featuring 8.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and 0.8 HR/9. For his career in Oakland, the 2011 All-Star had an ERA of 3.93, FIP of 4.06, with 7.3 WAR over 535 1/3 innings where he managed 8.6 K/9 to 4.4 BB/9 surrendering 0.9 HR/9.

I for one, love the package the A’s received in return for Gonzalez. On the podcast TarpTalk: An Oakland A’s Podcast that is in a sense a sister to this blog I had commented that two players I’d be interested seeing coming back to Oakland are Cole and Peacock so I am thrilled with their inclusion in the deal. Cole, has only 90 innings of work in his career, and all but one inning of it came in 2011. Pitching for the Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League, Cole had some misleading numbers a 4-7 record with a 4.04 ERA. When delving further however we see a pitcher who posted an incredible 10.9 K/9 to only 2.4 BB/9 (4.5 K/BB!) and just 0.6 HR/9 for an impressive 2.53 FIP – also he was just 19. Cole’s ERA likely suffered from a .342 BABIP and 63.1% strand rate as he pitched far better than the results indicated.

Peacock, meanwhile at 23 is someone who could find their way in the A’s rotation this year. He pitched in three games for the ’11 Nationals including two starts posting a 0.75 ERA and a more realistic 3.86 FIP (though an alarming 6.27 xFIP on account of the fact he did not surrender a home run and a 0.67 K/BB) in twelve innings of MLB work. He really stood out in the minors though, splitting his time between the Harrisburg Senators and Syracuse Chiefs with a combined 10.9 K/9, to only 2.9 BB/9 (both these guys in that sense are sort of the antithesis of Gonzalez with control who had 10.3 K/9 in his MiLB career but matched to 4.1 BB/9). Peacock was particularly impressive in Harrisburg where in 98 2/3 innings he posted a 2.01 ERA, bettered by a 1.87 FIP with an incredible 11.8 K/9 to just 2.1 BB/9 with 0.4 HR/9 against his Eastern League foes.

One might feel happy just stopping there, but as they say in infomericals: “wait there’s more!” Derek Norris, a catcher, spent all of 2011 in Harrisburg where he had a mixed slash line of .210/.367/.466. He suffered greatly from a .251 BABIP as reflected in the average but during his 423 plate appearances he managed 20 home runs adding to an impressive .237 ISO for an organization that has a decided lack of high wattage bats. His .371 wOBA and 129 wRC+ quickly put to bed any questions about the low batting average. The bat-first catcher who entered 2011 as Baseball America’s #72 overall prospect, hasn’t been terrible behind the plate catching 40% of would-be basestealers. He instantly becomes the A’s best catching prospect.

Milone, does not have the high vaunted status of the other three but still has incredible numbers and also could figure in the 2011 A’s rotation which again now appears to have a surplus of very good (though very young) pitching. If you are like me and hate walks and love strikeouts (not sure that anyone wouldn’t fit that mold) Milone is the guy for you as last year in Triple-A Syracuse he posted an incredible 9.7 K/BB as he posted 9.4 K/9 to just 1.0 BB/9 en route to a 148 1/3 inning year that saw him post a 3.22 ERA but even better 2.24 FIP. His strong pitching earned him a shot with the big league club in Washington where he went to the hill in five starts for the Nats throwing 26 innings of 5.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 work adding up to a 3.81 ERA and 3.56 FIP with him being worth 0.4 WAR.

This move should be exciting for all A’s fans. While there are many who are upset over the rebuilding and claim that this rebuilding demonstrates a lack of a “commitment to winning” which I see on all corners of the internet discussion, this move is a clear an unmistakable sign of a rebuild being done the right way as these four players are all people who can contribute in the very near future to a very high caliber club. While many would want more offensive players in return, a fair criticism given Oakland’s inability to draft and/or develop hitters, this package of young players in addition to Jarrod Parker arguably have a higher ceiling than the cohort of pitchers that were just vacated to initiate the rebuild. 2012 will most definitely not be a banner year for the A’s, but the future is indeed looking much brighter for the Oakland A’s, Christmas has come early.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. SEAN permalink
    December 22, 2011 5:58 pm

    I didn’t want to trade Gio but I think this is the best deal we could’ve gotten.

  2. December 22, 2011 6:56 pm

    Well, offense has been the problem for many years in Oakland. This pattern will apparently continue as we have not traded for any offense. Cowgill projects as a 4th OF type and hopefully Norris pans out to be a good Catcher.

    Is Billy Beane counting on Vollmuth/Parker to do something respectable at third? Not likely. Is he counting on Choice/Green/Taylor to be superstars in the OF? Possible, but not likely. Is he counting on Allen/Carter/Kila to be great hitters? Doubtful. All of these prospects would need to pan out just to have a respectable offense.

    I understand that we got a great package for Gio, but the offense still is lackluster. It doesn’t matter if we have five aces in the rotation because we need an offense to score some runs. I’m really hoping that we would have gotten Rendon in this package instead of another player.

    Pitching we have, offense we need. Maybe we can a good bat for Bailey at least.

  3. December 22, 2011 7:09 pm

    I agree that the offense is a problem and we proved one can’t win on all pitching no hitting. But pitching always is able to fetch a decent return and a surplus of arms like this (which looks poised to be better than the surplus we had just recently) so hopefully when they all mature some can be turned around perhaps for some offensive help. The key really is to develop and improve our offense, but when rebuilding, I want to get the best players available, so that we have a stock of players to turn to. While all three of these pitchers look good, as we are all well too aware they can not pan out, etc, so I don’t think you look to plug specific holes (granted one can very fairly argue “offense” is a very big large ambiguous hole) but rather get that best guy and see where things pan out when you have a team poised to compete and very clear holes. None of us expected Weeks to contribute to the 2012 squad, you don’t know what to expect out of Green, free-agency may be an option if a move to a new stadium increases revenue opportunities, so I am totally thrilled with this move though you make a very strong point regarding today’s deficiencies and the projected deficiencies of the future. I agree with you regarding Bailey. I have to think he will be dealt for hitting no matter what simply because there now is a big surplus of arms.

    • December 23, 2011 2:17 am

      No, we can’t win with all pitching and no offense. This is the exact reason why we just traded Gonzalez. We traded him because we can’t win with our current roster. We already have good pitching prospects in the minors already, clearly not as good as the ones we just got back, but still good prospects.

      If we trade our pitching for more, younger pitching then do we ever break the cycle? We didn’t we go for Rendon, trade as a PTBNL, or Hood instead of Milone or Cole? A rotation with Parker, Peacock, and a future Grey would be a great front three. Our problem is a lack of hitting with a very large, massive black hole in OF and 3B. Choice and Green could pan out but they both have problems and are not a lock. Similar, worse problems occur at third. If we got these two guys, at least we would have one more good option for each position.

      Once again, our only hope is to get a 3B from Boston since they have two great looking prospects at that position in Middlebrooks and Boegerts. I’m just not sure that they are willing to give up that much for a closer who has been injury prone.

      Finally, since our season is going to be lost, why not just trade everybody with value? I’m not joking, I’m being serious. Forfeit 2012 and push for a very strong 2013-2014. It will hurt the fans, but they don’t come out anyways. Hopefully we can build a young, strong team like we had in the early 2000s to be moved hopefully into Cisco Field.

      • December 24, 2011 9:08 am

        I am completely with you on the “forfeiting” from a competitive standpoint at least the next two seasons. Everyone with value should go aside from those like Weeks who could be the nucleus of the 2014, 2015 teams.

        I’m fine with the acquisition of pitching because of how high quality it is and how it gives us the flexibility to acquire the specific pieces we need further down the road. I’m hoping Bailey specifically nets us outfield help. Third base is a situation we can address further down the line and I’m completely fine with seeing how Scott Sizemore turns out for the next season.

        Ultimately we just need to draft better with hitters. I am not sure if it is something that is wrong with how we assess amateur hitters or if it is an issue with just a run of bad luck (my guess is a bit of both perhaps)?

        I’m not thrilled with the options available from Boston though he does seem the most likely landing spot for Bailey at this time. I’d be shocked if they gave up Bogaerts and I go back and forth about how I feel about Middlebrooks.


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