A few hours after introducing Jason Marquis to the nation's capital's press corps, DC GM Mike Rizzo phoned in to MASN TV Analyst Rob Dibble's XM show, "The Show" with Dibble and his co-host Jody McDonald to discuss the signing of free agent pitcher Jason Marquis and the other moves the Nationals have made (so far) this winter:
Rob Dibble: Mike, great job by you, but as soon as you sign somebody, then you hear the Yankees make a trade for Javy Vazquez, you just have to shake your head sometimes?
Mike Rizzo: "The Yankees are a terrific franchise, and they have depth in the organization, and that's what everyone is trying to build, depth in the organization, and depth means, they'll help you in the big leagues, your own players help you in the big leagues, but they also help you obtain players through trades, and deals like that, so, yeah, they're terrific and they do a great job over there, (NY GM Brian) Cashman's one of the best in the game, but the other teams are trying too and we're out to get' em, the World Champs, so we're always out to beat them..."
Jody McDonald: Mike, what was it about Jason Marquis that attracted you, that you targeted him and said alright there's a guy that can we can use as a veteran for our staff?
Mike Rizzo: "Well, certainly his track record speaks for itself, he's one of the most consistent starting pitchers in the last six years that there's been, you know, he takes the ball, he averages 29 or 30 starts per season the last six years, and he's one of ten pitchers in the major leagues, the entire major leagues, that has been in double digits wins in the last six seasons, and he ranked fourth this year in wins and innings pitched, and he's just a terrific character guy which is an important thing for me in the clubhouse, and I think a guy who's young enough at the age of thirty-one, but also has the veteran presence to help our real young staff, and those are some of things that appeal to me, I like the person that he brings, his competitiveness and his playoff experience."
Rob Dibble: And that World Championship when he was with the Cardinals and also postseason experience, and he talked about it in our open, we played a clip from the press conference today, Mike, where he talked about, listen, I want to do things that hopefully will rub off on the younger players, and that's exactly what I think the Nationals and yourself and Stan Kasten and the Lerners have been going for, first with Ivan Rodriguez and now getting Jason Marquis, and you said, you're building up from the ground up, obviously you guys are rebuilding the minor leagues, you got a lot of great evaluators and scouts here in the offseason, but landing a big name free agent in Ivan Rodriguez has led to some really good things for you?
Mike Rizzo: "I think it does, I do believe Washington is a place that players are beginning to want to go to, I think that players that really are fans of the game, that understand what's going on here in the Nationals, they see that it's going in the right direction, they see that the things we're trying to accomplish, not only for 2010, but for 2010 and beyond, and believe me, we've had a share of good veteran major league players, established major leaguers that have chosen to make Washington, D.C. their home, when they had options to go to just about any other major league city in baseball and they chose to come to Washington, and it's a great thing..."
Jody McDonald: Mike, we know that Marquis was not the only veteran starter that you talked to, you talked to several others and eventually got a deal done with Jason, is there a chance that you'll sign another veteran starter before Spring Training rolls around off the free agent market?
Mike Rizzo: "Well, we're trying to acquire several players, we've got several holes that we're trying to fill, starting pitching was obviously our number one, the thing that we tried to fix, and we're not finished yet, we still have a lot of moves to do to get to where we want to be as a franchise, but we're certainly looking towards 2010, but I also always have an eye toward 2010 and beyond, so we're going to be active in the market, be it the free agent market, the trade market, waiver claims, any which way that we can acquire the talent that brings us to become a viable championship type of organization and franchise, we're going to do it, and the Lerners have given us the resources to go out and play in the free agent market, in the international market, and in the trade market, where a trade such as Brian Bruney, we picked up salary with him, but we thought it was a trade we couldn't afford not to make."
Rob Dibble: Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that, I've learned an awful lot about baseball through you in the last year, especially having control over younger players, and Bruney's got a pretty big price tag, especially for the Nationals, but you're willing to take that risk and make a trade, explain maybe to some of the listeners how you like picking up the Nyjer Morgan's and the Sean Burnett's and guys like that and now other teams are calling you to try to pick up their contracts and pick up them as players, why do you like having control of the younger players, and like you said having the pieces to also deal with, that's something that the Yankees and clubs like them even the Red Sox, that's one of their trademarks, whereas now...years past, they'd give up everyone in their minor leagues, now they're acquiring as many guys for the minor leagues so they can turn around and trade them later?
Mike Rizzo: "Like I said in the opening, that's the way of building a championship organization, you know you get an inventory of good minor league talent and they either help you by performing for your club in the major leagues or by packaging them together and getting even a better established major leaguer to help you in a more short term, but control of the players is a vital ingredient to planning long-term with your ballclub, because when you have control of the player, you have some cost certainty and you also know the player's going to be with you for a certain amount of years, where you don't have to worry about losing them to free agency or for them to be too expensive in arbitration and that sort of thing...and often you can get a good deal on a player because he's going to arbitration and the team that has the rights to him wants to move him because they don't want to go to arbitration with them and pay the arbitration rate, they'd rather trade him off and getting a younger, farther away from the major league piece, but a much more inexpensive piece."
Jody McDonald: Mike, we know in June you put together your quote unquote "board", when you go through a amateur draft and you add a ton of talent to your organization from the high school or collegiate level, I'm sure you have something similar when the season ends when it comes to free agents, guys who are out there, guys who are available, filling holes and positions that you need, but then even at that there is additions to that board, and that would be a guy like Matt Capps who some people didn't expect to be non-tendered by the Pirates, but that's exactly the way it came down, how do you factor him in to a board that you've already put together, could a guy like Matt Capps help your bullpen at a stage like this?
Mike Rizzo: "Well, speaking about the board and the preferential order that that's in, that's always a very open-ended conversation, because I often control the magnets, and I put the magnets in whichever way I want, and that controls the board. So, uh, Matt Capps is a, you know, he's a guy we've talked about over the last year, and was a guy that I had inquired about in the trade talks earlier in the season with Pittsburgh, we've always liked him, we like his make-up on the mound, he's a twenty-six year old guy that's had success as a closer, coming off a year that he obviously feels was a down year for him, but a year he also had 27 saves, he's a guy, he fits our age parameters, that can grow with the club, a 26-year-old guy that we would control for another two seasons before free agency, and a guy that has good stuff, like I said, coming off a down season, but with some history of success, you know, some upside to him..."
Rob Dibble: My final question is, are you able, at this point you've been around the game for so long, your dad also, and trying to smell out the guys that are just using the Washington Nationals and yourself to kind of get more bargaining power toward other teams, are you able to see who the real players are and the people who are interested in the Nationals and the guy that just want to have that as part of the, oh there's five teams interested in my guy?
Mike Rizzo: "I think that some of that goes on, you know, it's hard to kind of gauge sometimes if you're being played just as a pawn to get more money from another team, but I try to consider myself as a good sense of a person with a judge of character and I deal openly and honestly with the player's representatives, and expect to be treated the same way in return, and we don't just stop with the agents, we certainly use all our entities and if we see a relationship that some player on our team that we feel speaks our language and speaks for the organization, I often have them if they've played with the player before if they have a relationship with them, I'll have one of our players, or one of our coaches, or our manager give the player a call just to show our interest and gauge their real interest in it, and there's a lot you can tell from that, and you have to have some street smarts about it and see if you're being played and if you are then I think you have to realize that, go in a different direction and get the players that really, really want to play in Washington, we find there's more and more of those types of players out there that really see Washington as a good destination as an up and coming franchise and as someplace that they want to be and they want to be involved in this thing because they feel that we're going in the right direction, we're going to be a winning franchise in the very near future and they want to be a part of it, and it starts with guys like Adam Dunn and signing Ryan Zimmerman long-term, and then you go out and you draft and sign a Stephen Strasburg and then all of a sudden a Hall of Famer, Pudge Rodriguez wants to come to you and wants to be a part of the action here and then a pitcher, Jason Marquis, and it goes on and on, I think there's a domino effect, there's a synergy that's going on, people see we're running in the right direction and I think it kind of takes a life of its own, and we're fielding calls on people who want to come here and have legitimate interest in become part of the Nationals' family."