TRADE PIECE: TOMMY MILONE

On December 23, 2011, the Oakland A’s, in a busy offseason, shipped first-time arbitration-eligible LHP Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals in a six-player deal. The Nats got minor league RHP Robert Gilliam and Gonzalez, who was coming off back-to-back solid seasons for the non-contending A’s.

Oakland GM Billy Beane got two minor leaguers plus a RHP in Brad Peacock and LHP Tommy Milone from the Nationals. A little more than a month into the 2012 season, Gonzalez is giving Washington what they expected, a solid 4-1 mark with 50 K’s in 41 2/3 IP and a 1.01 WHIP. But Milone is nearly matching him for the surprising A’s who check in at two games over .500 after 34 games.

Milone is a lefty who Baseball America says doesn’t have any dazzling tools, yet his minor league track record indicated that his excellent control should serve him well, even in the bigs. From 2009-2011, his W-L record was remarkably consistent (12-5, 12-5, 12-6) and over four minor league seasons and 516 IP, he walked just 84 while striking out 465 with a 1.14 WHIP.

In a five-game callup with the Nationals last year, Milone’s numbers translated just fine: 26 IP, 28 hits allowed, 4 walks and 15 K’s, with only his K’s/9 dropping significantly. So far this season, it has been more of the same. In 7 starts, Milone has earned 7 decisions going 5-2. Over 43 2/3 IP he has walked just 12 while striking out 25 with an impressive WHIP of 1.08.

On Friday night, Milone went 7 strong innings to beat the Tigers, bouncing back from a couple of tough outings on the road. He had given up 7 ER over 4 2/3 innings in Boston, then allowed 5 ER over 5 IP at Tampa Bay, though the latter game ended up as a W for the lefty.

This year it seems that Billy Beane’s magic is back as the A’s have gotten production from nearly everybody he has brought aboard since last year’s 74-88 season. Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, Jarrod Parker from the Trevor Cahill trade, Brandon Inge who was left for dead by the Tigers. They’re all paying off and they A’s are a fun team to watch.

Milone may be at the head of the class. His excellent control should combine with the pitching-friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum for some impressive numbers that will stack up well against whatever Gonzalez does in Washington. And from Beane’s viewpoint, Milone is on a 1-year/$480,000 deal and a couple years from arbitration. Meanwhile, Gio just signed a 5-year/$42M extension with the Nationals.