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Gio Latest To Go

image taken by deb roby on Flickr
I feel like I'm maintaining an A's blog right now. Another week, another mega deal involving the M's foes from the bay area. The latest sent shipping is LHP Gio Gonzalez, to the Nationals for RHP Brad Peacock, LHP Tom Milone, RHP A.J. Cole, and C Derek Norris.

Gonzalez, in my eyes, is a good but not great pitcher. That's not meant as a slam on him - good is good in my book. He has posted 3+ WAR the past 2 seasons. For me, on an ideal pitching staff, that's a number 3 starter. Gonzalez gets more than his fair share of strikeouts, which is nice, and his numbers across the board suggest that he is hard to square up. However, Gio also has a small penchant for walks, his biggest blemish. What I am interested to see is how Gio's move from a pitcher's park to a more neutral one will impact him. His home run rate allowed has been below league average, but perhaps that has more to do with the park than him. We'll have a better idea a year from now.

In return, the Athletics got an impressive quartet. Both Peacock and Milone got cups of coffee in the majors last season, and should compete for rotation spots this spring training. I remember watching Peacock in this year's MLB Futures game, and liking what I saw. I stand by my belief that he could be a dependable starter in the middle of a starting rotation. While I haven't seen Milone at all, his numbers continue to improve, even as he has been promoted to higher levels. He seems to be a bit of a late bloomer, and I wonder when his development will stop.

The gem of all the pieces might end up being A.J. Cole, but it is too early to tell. He is the youngest, but his 6'4" frame is what you look for in an ideal pitcher. He also had a high strikeout rate, and an impressively low walk rate for his age. While Cole is at least a couple years away, the upside is there. A hot start this spring will get him more in the national spotlight as a pitching prospect to watch out for.

Lastly, Derek Norris is the kind of "classic Moneyball" prospect the A's are fabled for since that book. Norris seems to hit for less and less average as he climbs the minor league ladder, but he walks a ton, and gets his share of dingers. For me, he looks like a bit like Braves backup David Ross, who I think is one of the more underrated backstops of the past five years. He could have been a solid everyday player in his prime, but never really got a chance.

Somewhere in the trio of arms the A's received, there is a replacement for Gio Gonzalez. That's the beauty of this deal - the A's got quality and quantity. Besides Cole, none of the players seem to have a chance to be great players, but in my estimation the A's also did not give up a great player. They gave up a good one, and got several good prospects in return.

The popular belief is that the Athletics are dismantling their team, and giving up on the season. To a degree, that is true. They weren't in much of a position to contend, even before the Angels and Rangers went ballistic in free agency. However, I wonder how much worse the A's are right now than they were at the start of the offseason.

It is true that Oakland has blown up its starting rotation, with Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill being traded away. However, their contributions last year are getting overrated. Both were productive players, but they are replaceable. Moreover, the A's acquired pieces in the trades involving both of those players that could step in and replace them decently well this year. Statistically speaking, their best pitcher last year was Brandon McCarthy. Brett Anderson could conceivably put together a more healthy season, and if he does, he could easily replace any lost production. It's not hard to imagine the A's pitching staff being just as good next year as it was this year.

The places where there are real question marks for Oakland are on offense, particularly in the outfield. They've lost Josh Willingham and David DeJesus, two of their best everyday players. Their only replacement that they have acquired in the offseason is Collin Cowgill. There are issues on the offensive side, but their offense was bad already. How much worse can it get?

The Athletics aren't going to contend next year, but I won't be surprised if they are just about as good next year as they were last year, at least with the roster they have now. In the process, they have strengthened their farm system, and if they ever move to San Jose, they just might be able to lock some of their young talent one of these days.

What does this mean for the Mariners? Not much, probably. They should still be building towards the future around the young talent that Jack Zduriencik has acquired. However, the A's trades are good news, if anything. Young, team-controlled pitching is clearly a hot commodity on the trade market right now, and I doubt it's about to cool off. The Mariners are flush with young pitching at the moment, and the past month has made me secretly want the team to trade Michael Pineda. It's not that I don't like Pineda (far from it), but the returns on young pitchers are so good right now, and there are several promising arms not far away from the majors in the system.

It will be nice if/when the Mariners act more like the rest of the AL West, and make big moves. The Angels made their big splash in free agency. The Rangers just paid the biggest posting fee for a Japanese player ever. The Athletics have just about acquired a new top 10 prospect list for the farm system. The Mariners have added George Sherrill, as well as their usual assortment of minor league free agents. I'm a Sherrill fan, but the Mariners have been flying under the radar for long enough now.