Late Thursday afternoon the news leaked out that the Nationals had acquired Gio Gonzalez for a package of players that included RHP’s AJ Cole and Brad Peacock, LHP Tom Milone, and catcher Derek Norris. In a conference call tonight Mike Rizzo talked about the deal that had been in the works since before the Winter Meetings began. Rizzo wanted to add a top of the rotation starter that was left handed that could slot between Strasburg and Zimmermann in the rotation. Rizzo said that being left handed was key not just to break up the righties in the rotation but to help deal with the tough left handed batters around the league.
The NL East features so particularly tough left handed batters in Brain McCann, Jason Heyward, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. Mike Rizzo feels that Gio Gonzalez is a power lefty that has struggled with walks, but is trending in the right direction and as his career progresses so will the command. He feels that Gonzalez stacks up with the best left handed pitchers in baseball. A group that would include CJ Wilson, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, and Cliff Lee. A number of whom struggled with command early on in their careers.
Rizzo went on to say that while the Nats had to give up players that, “Were near and dear to our hearts,” the rotation still has depth. The loser of the Spring Training battle between Wang/Lannan/Detwiler for the last two spots in the rotation will likely slot into the bullpen and pitchers like Tom Gorzelanny and Craig Stammen will be ready to step in when a starter is needed. Rizzo also mentioned that the next wave of starting pitchers is close and could be as good or better than those included in the trade.
The subject of the Nats ongoing search for a center fielder was broached and Rizzo said that the Nats would be aggressive if the right fit came along. Rizzo is looking for a long term solution in center field and mentioned once again that Werth could move to center in the short term which would open up options at the corners. As far as other improvements to be made to the Nationals Mike Rizzo said that he and Davey would, “Put their heads together,” and discuss moves that would help Davey to manage effectively.
With Gio Gonzalez added to the rotation the Nationals have improved their pitching greatly and should be an exciting team to watch in 2012. Rizzo feels that the young core is still improving and is hoping for healthy seasons from Zimmerman and LaRoche and a Jayson Werth type season from Jayson Werth.
As far as Prince Fielder rumors go Rizzo was asked if LaRoche was his first baseman which he answered in the affirmative. Keep in mind though that the only first basemen currently on the roster are LaRoche and Morse with LaRoche being the better defensive first baseman. He is continuing to look for ways to improve the ball club, but the addition of Gio Gonzalez is a big one that Nats fans should be excited about.