Rizzo On Gonzalez, Pitching, Center Field, Bench

The Nationals and Athletics made the Gio Gonzalez trade official today, with Derek Norris, Tom Milone, Brad Peacock, and A.J. Cole going to Oakland as expected. Washington also received Robert Gilliam in the swap. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo discussed the trade and other topics with reporters during a conference call this evening, so let's recap…

  • The two sides started discussing Gonzalez "probably over a month ago," and they first exchanged names just before the winter meetings. Rizzo said he met with the Athletics several times in Dallas, and they increased their efforts to acquire Gio after losing out on Mark Buehrle.
  • "Being left-handed was really a key for us," said the GM, noting that Gonzalez can slot between power righties Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg in the rotation. "[The trade] gives us a young core of starting pitchers at the major league level."
  • "To acquire a player like this you need to give up some painful players in return," said Rizzo. "[It took] four players that are near and dear to our heart … They'll be sorely missed."
  • When asked about Gonzalez's walk rate – career 4.44 BB/9 and an AL worst 4.05 BB/9 in 2011 – Rizzo said "we see his walks trending in the right direction, we see him having general command, and as he progresses into his career, he's going to improve on his command each and every year." Gio has improved his walk rate every year of his big league career, and the team believes the "changing of leagues will positively affect [his] performance."
  • Rizzo said they like Gonzalez's "moxie and attitude on the mound," and noted that they've clocked his fastball as high as 95 mph using the PitchFX system.
  • "We feel we have great depth in the starting rotation," said the GM, noting that Tom Gorzelanny and Craig Stammen can start with Sammy Solis and Alex Meyer representing the next wave of pitching prospects. "We feel that we're still very deep in starting pitchers. We like the talent level of our pitching staff, and it's going to be great competition to see who comes out of [Spring Training] as the starting five."
  • Rizzo confirmed that Solis has not yet visited Dr. Yocum about his sore elbow due to strep throat. Once that clears up, he will have his elbow checked out.
  • "We're always looking to improve our ball club," added Rizzo, who said they will "certainly be aggressive" if the opportunity to acquire a long-term center fielder via trade or free agency presents itself.
  • When asked if Adam LaRoche will be the Nationals first baseman in 2012, Rizzo replied flatly: "That is correct." The Nationals have been mentioned as a possible suitor for Prince Fielder this offseason.
  • "We'd like to improve our bench. We'd like to improve our depth in the minor leagues to help us if need be at the Major League level," said Rizzo when asked what else he'd like to accomplish this offseason.

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