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Hot Stove: The Nationals Trade for Gio Gonzalez
Nate Springfield | Friday December 23rd, 2011
Gio Gonzalez is heading to the nation's capital. (Icon SMI)
Gio Gonzalez is heading to the nation's capital. (Icon SMI)

The Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics completed a six player trade on Thursday evening, with the Nats solidifying the front end of the rotation acquiring starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, and adding organizational depth with minor league pitcher Robert Gilliam.  In return the A's receive four very good prospects; starting pitchers A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone and catcher Derek Norris.

The 26-year-old Gonzalez has enjoyed two consecutive successful seasons with Oakland.  Over his last 402 2/3 innings pitched, he has a 31-21 record, with a 3.17 ERA, while striking out 368 batters.  The south-paw showed growth in the strikeout category last season.  He improved his strikeout per nine innings pitched (K/9) to 8.78, and improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB) to a career best of 2.16 K/BB.  Both of these numbers put Gio in the top tier of left handed starting pitchers in the game today.

One concern Nationals' fans may have of Gonzalez are his home and away splits.  The Florida native seems to have been helped out by the pitcher friendly Oakland Coliseum, posting a 2.72 ERA at home, while owning a 3.60 mark when away from Oakland.  Even though his ERA is almost a full point better at home, he allowed only one more home run on the road than at home last season.  The Nationals see Gio is a maturing pitcher, and his improvement in the past two seasons indicate he could take the next step as a premier starter in the league, no matter what stadium he pitches in.  With him being under team control until 2015, they saw him as worthy return for the amount of quality prospects they gave up in the deal.

The Athletics also sent minor league pitcher Robert Gilliam to Washington in the trade.  Gilliam is a 24 year-old right handed pitcher that has yet to see Double-A ball in Oakland's system in his two full years of professional ball.  For now, he serves as organizational depth for the Nationals.

For Gonzalez, the Athletics acquired three starting pitcher prospects, and one of the more promising catcher prospects in the game.  Righty Brad Peacock, righty A.J. Cole and southpaw Tommy Milone are the three starting pitchers heading to Washington in the deal, along with catcher Derek Norris.  Peacock, Cole and Norris were all ranked earlier this offseason by Baseball America as being top-10 prospects in the Nationals system.

Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone both saw time with the Nationals last season.  Formerly ranked 3rd overall, and the top pitcher in the Nat's system, Peacock emerged last year as one of the better power arms in the upper minor leagues.  Between double and triple-A last season, he owned a 2.39 ERA while striking out 177 batters in 146 2/3 innings pitched.  In his two 2011 starts with the Nationals he collected two wins, allowing no earned runs and striking out four batters in 10 2/3 innings.  Milone made five starts in the major leagues last season, posting a 3.81 ERA over 26 innings pitched while striking out 15 and walking four.

19 year-old A.J. Cole, ranked fourth by Baseball America on the Nationals prospect list, made 20 appearances, 18 being starts, for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns in 2011, posting a 4.04 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 89 innings pitched.  Even though young, and with only one full year of professional experience, Cole may end up being the best pitcher out of the three heading to Oakland in this deal.

Derek Norris, formerly ranked as the ninth best prospect in the Nats organization, is a catcher with great offensive potential.  In 2011, at age 22, Norris hit 20 home runs for Washington's Double-A affiliate, but struggled to make consistent contact carrying only a .210 average.  He was a big chip to trade, but considering that current Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is playing up to expectations, is only 24 years-old and under team control through 2016, Norris was expendable.  Norris seems to be the heir apparent to current A's catcher Kurt Suzuki, unless he is flipped in another trade.

From a fantasy stand point, Gio Gonzalez's value should hold steady in mixed leagues, with the move to the National League offsetting his move out of Oakland Coliseum.  He definitely adds more depth to the loaded crop of NL-only quality starting pitchers and will probably see increased value in keeper leagues, now that he is  playing for a team who is definitely getting better in the near future.

Peacock and Milone may have some significance in deeper AL-only leagues as the 2012 season progresses, but Cole and Norris will have no value in any type of redraft league this season.  In dynasty formats all pitchers should see a little bit of boost in value because of their new home park, but Norris's value will decrease slightly for the same reason.
Nate SpringfieldNate Springfield joined the Baseball Press crew for the 2010 season and hosts the site's podcast. His love for the game has grown thanks to fantasy baseball, with a specialty in NL-only auction leagues. You can contact him at nate@baseballpress.com or follow him on Twitter @NateSpringfield.