After weeks of speculation and rumors, Gio Gonzalez finally has a new home.
The Nationals emerged victorious with the A's hurler on Thursday, sending a package of right-handers Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole, catcher Derek Norris and left-hander Tom Milone to Oakland. Washington also gets righty Robert Gilliam.
Peacock leads the group after putting together a season in which he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, MLB.com's Double-A Starter of the Year and a Topps Double-A All-Star. Formerly ranked the Nationals' No. 2 prospect, Peacock fashioned a 2.01 ERA in 98 2/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg, striking out 129 and walking 28. He followed that up by compiling a 3.19 ERA in 48 innings at Triple-A, then an 0.75 mark in 12 Major League frames.
Selected in the 41st round of the 2006 Draft, Peacock hadn't posted an ERA below 4.16 in a full season before last year. The 23-year-old added some deception to his delivery in Spring Training, which contributed to his breakout season, according to Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin.
"There were many times that you saw hitters' reactions to his fastball where the ball was on them a lot quicker than they were anticipating, even though they knew he throws in the low- to mid-90s," Tomlin told MiLB.com in October. "They see that quite often, but they could not get a read on the timing. Sometimes back in the dugout, you could see them explaining to other guys about how the ball jumped out of his hand."
Cole, a fourth-round pick in 2010, ranked as Washington's No. 3 prospect after a successful rookie season. The 19-year-old put together a 4.04 ERA in 89 innings for Class A Hagerstown, fanning 108 and walking 24. Though he weakened as the year wore on -- he posted a 3.38 ERA before the All-Star break, compared to a 4.42 mark after -- he still managed to lead a combined one-hit effort against Delmarva in August.
Norris, meanwhile, had an up-and-down year for Harrisburg during which he battled numerous injuries. The 22-year-old catching prospect batted just .210, but slugged 20 homers and posted a .367 on-base percentage in 104 games. He then altered his approach in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .267 with two homers and an identical .367 on-base percentage.
"I'm just trying to be more aggressive at the plate," Norris told MLB.com in October. "I felt like I took way too many pitches over the course of this past year. I'm just trying to put the ball in play and see what happens."
Overall, the 2007 fourth-rounder checked in as the Nats' No. 5 prospect.
"You don't wake up every day and find out you were part of a [six]-man trade for a big leaguer. I feel like if they made that trade for us, that means they obviously means they like us," Norris told MLB.com. "They obviously see a future for us. I'm not saying the Nationals didn't. If someone is willing to give up a guy like Gio Gonzalez for a few Minor League prospects, I feel they have a good plan for us and I'm excited."
Rounding out the trade was 24-year-old Milone, who went 12-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 148 1/3 innings at Triple-A, fanning 155 while walking just 15. He did not strike out quite as many at the Major League level, whiffing 15 in 26 innings for Washington with a 3.81 ERA. A 10th-round pick in 2008, Milone was named the Nationals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2010 after putting together a 2.85 ERA in 158 Double-A frames.
The Nationals got an established and affordable Major League starter in Gonzalez. The 26-year-old left-hander has thrown over 200 innings in each of the past two seasons, posting ERAs of 3.23 and 3.12 respectively. He struck out an impressive 368 batters during that time, but also issued 183 walks. He is not eligible to become a free agent until after the 2016 season.
Gilliam was 12-7 with a 5.04 ERA for Class A Advanced Stockton. He struck out 156 batters in 164 1/3 innings.