Just in time for Christmas, Billy Beane found a team that would meet his price for left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
ESPN.com's Keith Law reported via Twitter that the Washington Nationals have acquired Gonzalez from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for four top prospects.
On their way to a future in green and gold are pitchers A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock and Tom Milone, along with catcher Derek Norris. Cole, Peacock and Norris were among the Nationals' top 10 prospects as rated by Baseball America. And Minor League Ball's John Sickels had Milone in his Nats top 10, as well.
By any measure, Beane got the haul of young, cost-controlled talent he was looking to get for Gonzalez.
For Nats fans, GM Mike Rizzo finally has a big offseason move he can point to. (No offense to Mike Cameron and, soon, Mark DeRosa.) The Nats are still among the rumored suitors for Prince Fielder, and several analysts think they're the most likely team to back up the big money truck for him. But the line to talk to him is six or seven clubs deep.
Meanwhile, Rizzo missed out on Mark Buehrle and C.J. Wilson in free agency, prompting him to hit the trade market for pitching help.
Is Gonzalez worth the bushel of prospects the Nationals had to give up? Last season, the 26-year-old lefty went 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA. Gonzalez also threw 202 innings — reaching the 200-inning mark for the second straight season — which might be most important for a Nats' starting rotation led by youngsters Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.
Gonzalez does walk a lot of batters, leading the majors with 91 last season and walking 92 the previous year. But interested teams (such as the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox) were willing to overlook that for a young, power-throwing lefty who eats up a load of innings. And for anyone that might sneer that Gonzalez's numbers look better because of Oakland's O.co Coliseum, consider that Nationals Park is nearly just as friendly to pitchers.
The cost of getting Gonzalez was high, but as the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore points out, it's a lesser package than Rizzo was willing to give up for Zack Greinke a year ago. That would've included Zimmermann, Drew Storen and Danny Espinosa, each of whom were key pieces for a Nats team that won 80 games and looks to be on the rise.
And since Rizzo didn't sign a top-tier free agent pitcher, that presumably leaves plenty of cash to push in front of Fielder. (This would also satisfy Kilgore's colleague at the Post, Thomas Boswell.)
With that move, the Nats have an offseason to rival that of the newly moneybags Miami Marlins. Suddenly, the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves would have two teams to look over their shoulders for in a potentially fierce NL East race.