Even if it resulted in this irresistibly terrible pun, the news that the Washington Nationals extended Mike Rizzo’s contract is a great way to kick-off the season for the NL East powerhouse. Since becoming General Manager in 2009, the Nationals have gone from a laughing stock with back-to-back 100 loss seasons, to winning 4 division titles in 6 years.
Although many people will point to his drafting of Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg as two feathers in his cap. It’s not hard to select the clear best player in the draft at number 1 overall. But what he did do correctly with these two superstars, is manage them through the minor leagues and make sure they were ready for the majors when they came up. As you remember, both hit the ground running when they came up. Strasburg with the 14 strikeouts, and Harper winning Rooke of the Year in 2012.
It’s also conceivable that the Nationals may be extending Rizzo in order to have the inside track on re-signing Harper in the off-season. The Nats right fielder has had nothing but positive words to say about the GM in his career. Whether that happens during the season, still very unlikely, or in the off-season when that rapport with Harper and Scott Boras will be useful. But don’t think that’s the only reason Rizzo was extended.
The most impressive part of his stay with the Nats so far has been his ability to keep a strong farm system. This when other contenders are willing to deal away their top prospects for short-term gain, which admittedly does work. But then can lead to long rebuilds. Rizzo has managed to keep the Nationals at the top of the game, and they look to stay there with some impressive prospects nearly in the majors.
If you take a look at the top of the Nationals farm system right now, you have Victor Robles, one of the best prospects in all of baseball. Many teams have tried to lure him away from Rizzo and the Nats, such as the Pirates with Andrew McCutchen and the Marlins with JT Realmuto. Both would’ve been a fine upgrade for his team. But Rizzo’s adamance to hold onto him, even when he was slightly less heralded, shows how keen of an eye for a star he has.
That doesn’t mean he’s completely opposed to dealing from the farm system. But he’s very careful when doing so. When Rizzo acquired Adam Eaton, he dealt from a position of depth, the pitching in the minors. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning will certainly be good major leaguers; but the Nationals rotation is one of the top few in MLB. And when you can fill a hole in left field for multiple years on a very team-friendly contract, you pull the trigger.
In a similar scenario, when he acquired Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the Oakland Athletics, he was somewhat reluctant to give up Jesus Luzardo and Sheldon Neuse, but again this was from a position of strength. Starting pitching, and with Anthony Rendon locking down the hot corner for years to come, it made a ton of sense.
All-in-all re-signing Rizzo was practically a no-brainer for the man who gave the franchise the U-turn it needed since moving to the capital. And for those believers, of which I am one, as long as Rizzo remains with the club, the Nationals window won’t necessarily shut at the end of the 2018 season.
He really is a Rizz-ard, and will keep churning out the talent for DC.