With a slew of young, highly-talented starting pitchers traded to new teams this offseason, what began as a big surprise to the baseball world has now settled in as a trend. Gio Gonzalez, Mat Latos, Michael Pineda, and Trevor Cahill were all traded this winter and all are under the age of 25. All of them are very good and all are under team control for several years in their respective new homes.
Each team that acquired one of these guys - the Nationals, Reds, Yankees, and Diamondbacks - gave up a significant package of prospects to land their man. The Yankees, in fact, sent packing one of baseballs best prospects in catcher Jesus Montero to get Pineda. But setting aside what each team gave up, who got the best young pitcher in return?
If you ask Sports Illustrateds Tom Verducci, the Nationals come in first.
Verducci ranks Gonzalez above the rest because of his rare skillset for a left-hander. He points out Gio won at least 15 games in each of the last two seasons and maintained an ERA below 3.30. Verducci then asks:
Do you know how many pitchers also can say that? Only one: CC Sabathia.
Verducci quotes a talent evaluator who swayed him on the fact Gonzalez may just be realizing his potential. Cited is his reliability (200 IP the past two years) and potential improvement simply by pitching on a better team.
Here are their 2011 stats juxtaposed:
Gio Gonzalez: 16-12, 3.12 ERA, 1.317 WHIP, 197 SO, 202.0 IP
Mat Latos: 9-14, 3.47 ERA, 1.184 WHIP, 185 SO, 194.1 IP
Michael Pineda: 9-10, 3.74 ERA, 1.099 WHIP, 173 SO, 171.0 IP
Trevor Cahill: 12-14, 4.16 ERA, 1.425 WHIP, 147 SO, 207.2 WHIP
Both Latos and Cahill posted sub-3.00 ERAs in 2010
Gonzalez also presents less of an injury risk than the other three. Latos has battled shoulder bursitis, Pineda has had elbow and forearm stiffness and saw his fastball dip eight miles per hour by the end of last season, and Cahill has a rotator cuff strain in his past.
Verducci examines this group and several times evokes a certain trade made during the 1994 offseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers were in need of offense and held in their possession a young power arm by the name of Pedro Martinez. The Dodgers found a suitor and shipped Pedro to the Montreal Expos for second baseman Delino DeShields. Martinez went on to win the franchises only Cy Young award as well as two more along the way towards a Hall of Fame career. Could the Expos, now known as the Nationals, have pulled off another epic steal?