None of the prospects the Nationals sent to the A’s in exchange for Gonzalez was considered irreplaceable. Of the four, Cole, a flamethrower who turns 20 next month and spent 2011 at low-Class A Hagerstown, is thought to have the highest ceiling, while Peacock, 23, stood the best chance of being a major contributor for the Nationals next season. He and Milone were expected to compete this spring for spots in the team’s 2012 rotation.
Called up at the end of 2011 after a breakthrough minor league season that included an appearance in the Futures Game, Peacock made two impressive starts and allowed only one earned run over the course of his 12 innings (0.75 ERA).
Milone, 24, is a soft-tossing lefty who also earned a September call-up after excelling at every step of the minors. His soft repertoire and impeccable command drew comparisons in the Nationals’ organization to a young Tom Glavine, but talent evaluators had mixed opinions as to whether he would be able to retire big league hitters consistently. A flyball pitcher, Milone likely will benefit from the Coliseum’s large dimensions.
The Nationals believe the recent influx of a new wave of pitching prospects into their farm system — including 2011 draftees Alex Meyer and Matt Purke, plus lefties Robbie Ray and Sammy Solis, both drafted in 2010 — gave them enough depth to part with a trio of more advanced prospects.
Meantime, the 22-year-old Norris, the Nationals’ top catching prospect, is an on-base machine (.403 career on-base percentage) who had seen his production slip in each of the past two minor league seasons, both of which were cut short by injuries. He also became expendable for the Nationals because of the emergence of 24-year-old Wilson Ramos as their No. 1 catcher.
Nationals note: The worst-kept secret of the Nationals’ offseason is about to reach its conclusion, as the team is believed to be close to reaching an agreement with free agent infielder Mark DeRosa.
DeRosa, 36, has a career batting average of .272 with a .341 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage, but played in only 73 games combined in 2010 and 2011 for the San Francisco Giants because of a wrist injury.
DeRosa has played six positions in his career, but the Nationals apparently view him primarily as a backup at first base.