Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Nationals trade cornerstone Gio to Brewers

Washington also deals Madson to Dodgers for Minors righty Istler
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez arrived in D.C. in 2012, helping lead the Nationals to the first postseason berth in team history, and remained a part of the organization through four division titles in six seasons. Along with Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, Gonzalez had been the only other remaining player with the team who could boast such a claim, a cornerstone during Washington's emergence as one of Major League Baseball's most successful regular-season teams.

That tenure ended on Friday, when the Nationals traded Gonzalez and international slot bonus money to the Brewers for first baseman/catcher KJ Harrison and infielder Gilbert Lara. Because the two teams are playing each other this weekend at Nationals Park, Gonzalez only had to walk across the hall to the visitor's clubhouse to meet his new team and get his new gear for his press conference following Washington's 4-1 loss.

View Full Game Coverage

WASHINGTON -- Gio Gonzalez arrived in D.C. in 2012, helping lead the Nationals to the first postseason berth in team history, and remained a part of the organization through four division titles in six seasons. Along with Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, Gonzalez had been the only other remaining player with the team who could boast such a claim, a cornerstone during Washington's emergence as one of Major League Baseball's most successful regular-season teams.

That tenure ended on Friday, when the Nationals traded Gonzalez and international slot bonus money to the Brewers for first baseman/catcher KJ Harrison and infielder Gilbert Lara. Because the two teams are playing each other this weekend at Nationals Park, Gonzalez only had to walk across the hall to the visitor's clubhouse to meet his new team and get his new gear for his press conference following Washington's 4-1 loss.

View Full Game Coverage

At times during his seven-season marriage with the Nationals, Gonzalez was brilliant, the ace who started the team's first postseason game and a durable arm that the Nats could count on. On other occasions, he was inconsistent and the starting pitcher on the mound for some of the biggest postseason losses in team history.

The 32-year-old Gonzalez donned a Brewers hat and hooded sweatshirt while in front of a Nationals background. In fitting fashion, his press conference was an emotional rollercoaster, just as so much of his time in Washington had been.

"I grew up here," Gonzalez said, pausing as he choked up on his words. "I had my family here, my wife, my kids. Just sad to see it end."

Video: MIL@WSH: Gonzalez and Martinez on trade to Brewers

And then, quickly, almost as suddenly as he sometimes navigates his way out of his own self-inflicted jams on the mound, he pivoted to his excitement about helping the Brewers.

"But I'm happy. I'm happy, I'm really happy. I'm getting a second chance to redeem myself, and I think this is a perfect opportunity with a team like the Brewers," Gonzalez said. "What a great lineup, what a great rotation, what a stacked bullpen. I see there's hopefully a brighter future for me here."

News of the trade began circling around social media at the start of Friday's loss to the Brewers and broke in the Nats' dugout during the early innings. But with the deal not yet official, Gonzalez remained in the home dugout, and television cameras caught him talking with Stephen Strasburg, perhaps his closest friend on the team. Still, Gonzalez took a trip around the stadium a few times, up to the bullpen to talk to some of the relievers and back down to the dugout again.

"I had some great teammates in this organization, this organization is the Nationals, and they believed in me," Gonzalez said. "They gave me an opportunity to continue my success from Oakland to Washington, and I just wanted to do something notable here in Washington, and I was just grateful to be in four playoff runs, pitch with some of the greats…

"I had a great fan base here, could never say anything ever bad, that would make me feel sad or anything. This organization and the fans were incredible. They treated me and my family, they gave me so much when I was here, and I couldn't ask for more."

Video: MIL@WSH: Martinez on Gonzalez trade, loss to Brewers

Gonzalez and reliever Ryan Madson, who was traded to the Dodgers earlier in the day, were the latest veterans shipped away during Washington's roster overhaul. And despite only a month remaining in the regular season, the Nats were able to get three players in return, including Harrison, who was Milwaukee's 29th-ranked prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline. Madson was claimed on waivers by Los Angeles on Wednesday, and the two sides worked out a deal for Minor League pitcher Andrew Istler while the Dodgers picked up Madson's remaining salary for the 2018 season, saving the Nats a little more than $1 million.

It is unclear how much of Gonzalez's salary of about $2 million the Brewers will be responsible for, but the Nationals have now dealt away five veterans in August in order to create "financial flexibility," the term used by general manager Mike Rizzo. As they have continued to be mired near a .500 record, Washington has dealt away some key players through the waiver system this month, including Daniel Murphy to the Cubs, Shawn Kelley to the A's and Matt Adams to the Cardinals.

"It's hard because of the relationships I've built with these guys -- that's the hardest part of it," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "You know they're going to play baseball, and we're continuing to play baseball here. I've been in this game a long time, and I've been traded multiple times, been on new teams a lot, so I get it. It's part of it. But you just gotta keep moving on."

Video: WSH@NYM: Gonzalez limits Mets to 1 run over 7 frames

In seven seasons, Gonzalez was a standard of durability, making at least 27 starts every year with the Nats, and posting a respectable 3.62 ERA. He collected the fifth-most Wins Above Replacement, (21.4) according to Baseball Reference, of any player in Nationals history, as well as the second-most wins (86) and most innings pitched (1,253 1/3). Gonzalez was also the starting pitcher for some of the most important games in club history, including Games 1 and 5 of the 2012 National League Division Series, and Game 5 of the NLDS in '17.

Even though he has struggled at length this season -- his 7.47 ERA in August was the worst among qualified starters in the Majors -- he has proven to be a durable left-hander with postseason experience.

"I think everyone needs a fresh start now and then," Gonzalez said. "It's unfortunate I put myself in this situation, and now it's time I get myself out of it. Milwaukee took a shot with me, and I'm going to do my best to make it happen."

Acquired along with Sean Doolittle in the summer of 2017 to help a struggling bullpen, Madson became one of the team's primary setup men. His first season with the Nats was solid, with a 1.37 ERA and 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 20 games. This year was more difficult, with two disabled list stints and a 5.28 ERA. Still, the 38-year-old right-hander had nothing but positive things to say about his time in Washington as he looks forward to Los Angeles.

"It feels like a fresh start, especially in a year in which I've struggled," Madson said. "[The trade] was a huge jolt to my career last year, coming to the playoff push. I actually showed myself what I can do. My stuff was so much better. I really appreciate them bringing me over here and kind of revitalizing my career."

Video: WSH@NYM: Madson induces a double play to notch save

The Nats spent part of this month tearing down a team they had much higher aspirations for, but none of the other players had been around as long as Gonzalez. His departure represents another dismantled piece from a core with a closing championship window that will need different, younger pieces for the Nats to prop back open. But the Nats moved on from Gonzalez on Friday, putting the most emotional stamp in their roster shakeup.

"D.C. gave me a home," Gonzalez said. "That's one thing I'll always be proud of and happy. D.C. will always be in my heart."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Elliott Smith is a contributor to MLB.com based in Washington.

Washington Nationals, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Madson