Done deal: Nationals get LHP Gonzalez from A’s

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has kept his eye on Gio
Gonzalez for the last decade or so. Now, the left-hander is a
member of Rizzo’s starting rotation.

Capping trade talks that began about a month ago, the Athletics
and Nationals completed a six-player swap Friday that sends
Gonzalez from Oakland to Washington, where he joins a promising
pitching staff that already included right-handers Stephen
Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.

”I’ve known him since he was in high school in the Miami area.
This is a guy I followed for years. I really like the way he
competes,” Rizzo said on a conference call. ”I call him, in a
good way, a sore loser.”

Oakland gets four players in the deal: catcher Derek Norris,
right-handers A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock, and left-hander Tommy
Milone. The Nationals also received minor league right-hander
Robert Gilliam, who went 12-7 with a 5.04 ERA and 156 strikeouts
for Class-A Vancouver this year.

A’s general manager Billy Beane said he nearly took another
offer but in the end preferred the prospects Washington sent.

”I told everyone I spoke to, we’d leverage one team against the
other,” Beane said. ”We were giving up a pitcher, and the ability
to acquire three very good major league prospects who were pitchers
swung it for us.”

The 26-year-old Gonzalez went 16-12 last season – a career high
for wins – with a 3.12 ERA in 32 starts and was selected to his
first All-Star game. He has reached 200 innings the past two
seasons.

”He brings a presence in our rotation. He’s had success. He’s
been a workhorse. He’s very, very young,” Rizzo said. ”Gives us a
young core of starting pitchers at the major league level that
really is in the realm of something we’ve never had here
before.”

ESPN.com first reported the agreement Thursday and Gonzalez
confirmed to The Associated Press that the deal was in place,
pending a physical.

Gonzalez will be slotted between Strasburg and Zimmermann, two
hard throwers who have come back from reconstructive elbow surgery
and are considered cornerstones of the Nationals’ attempt to
finally become contenders. After finishing last in the NL East in
three consecutive seasons, Washington went 80-81 and wound up in
third place in 2011.

”We think that we’re vastly improved over last year,” Rizzo
said.

At season’s end, the GM made clear his top priorities this
offseason were adding a top-line starting pitcher and an
outfielder. The Nationals are still in the market for a
”long-term, permanent fit” in center field, Rizzo said.

After failing to land free-agent pitcher Mark Buehrle, who
signed with the Miami Marlins, the Nationals ”stepped up our
efforts” to improve their rotation, Rizzo said, which led to trade
talks with the A’s.

Beane is in rebuilding mode, having previously dealt starter
Trevor Cahill to Arizona to stockpile more talent in the farm
system. The A’s went 74-88 last season and haven’t posted a winning
record or earned a playoff berth since 2006.

Beane said he is making moves in hopes of being able to move
into a new stadium in San Jose in a few years. He said he expects
to hear soon from Commissioner Bud Selig whether the team can build
a new ballpark some 40 miles south in San Jose despite the San
Francisco Giants owning the territorial rights to technology-rich
Santa Clara County.

”For us to compete, we’re going to have to have a new
stadium,” Beane said. ”I don’t think there was a move we could
have made that would have put us in position to compete with
Anaheim and Texas and what they have.”

Gonzalez has been the subject of trade talks all offseason, with
many teams interested in adding a proven starter.

”He’s won a lot of games on a mediocre club,” Rizzo said about
Gonzalez. ”Sixteen wins on the Oakland A’s last year was quite a
feat.”

Peacock and Milone made their major league debuts in September,
Norris hit 20 homers at Double-A Harrisburg, and the 19-year-old
Cole went 4-7 with a 4.04 ERA at Class-A Hagerstown.

”To acquire a player like (Gonzalez), you need to give up some
painful players in return, and we’ve done just that, four players
that are near and dear to our hearts because we drafted them,”
Rizzo said.

NOTES: In other moves, the A’s designated C Landon Powell and OF
Jai Miller for assignment.

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley and AP Sports Writer Josh
Dubow in Oakland, Calif., and AP Sports Writer Mike Fitzpatrick in
New York contributed to this report.