OAKLAND -- It's no secret that the A's are in a giving mood this holiday season, and Friday they officially dealt their most prized possession, sending away fan favorite Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals for four prospects. In exchange for the All-Star lefty, Oakland received a hefty package that includes right-handers Brad Peacock and A.J. Cole, lefty Tom Milone and catcher Derek Norris -- all of whom were considered to be among Washington's top Minor Leaguers. Peacock, Cole and Norris immediately become part of the A's Top 10 Prospects. Gonzalez's departure -- expected for weeks in the midst of a heated sweepstakes that included several teams -- comes just two weeks after pitchers Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow were traded to Arizona in a deal that netted the A's three players, bringing their total haul to seven well-regarded prospects.
That group is expected to add up to a competing team the rebuilding A's hope will christen a new stadium in San Jose as soon as 2014. Oakland has been awaiting a stadium decision for nearly three years, but there is speculation an answer could come in January. Gonzalez, 26 and under club control through 2015, is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and is likely to command a salary in the range of $4 million. He was 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 202 innings in 2011 and joins a formidable Nationals staff that also includes Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. Peacock, meanwhile, figures to be in the mix for a rotation spot in Oakland. The young hurler, who will turn 24 in February, went a combined 15-3 with a 2.39 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A this year before being promoted to Washington, where he allowed just one run in 12 innings down the stretch. Milone is also big league ready, having posted a 3.81 ERA in five starts for the Nationals last season. He also compiled a 3.22 ERA with 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 148 1/3 frames in Triple-A. Norris, who turns 23 in February, was selected by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft and once was considered a top catching prospect. But his stock has dropped in the last two years because of injuries, and he's coming of his worst season, hitting .210 with 20 home runs and 46 RBIs in Double-A. The right-handed Cole was a late addition to the deal. Reliever Cole Kimball was initially supposed to be traded in his place before Oakland asked for Cole, who went 4-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 20 games -- 18 starts -- at the Class A level this year. He's just 19 and tallied 108 strikeouts vs. just 24 walks. It's believed that Cole could ultimately be a front-line starter, which the A's lost when dealing Gonzalez. With the departures of him and Cahill, Oakland's 2012 rotation candidates now include Brandon McCarthy, Guillermo Moscoso, Josh Outman and Tyson Ross, along with the rehabbing duo of Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson -- the former should be ready by season's start, the latter in the second half. Newcomer Jarrod Parker, acquired from the D-backs in the Cahill deal, is also expected to compete for a job.