DC GM Mike Rizzo was on Sirius/XM's Power Alley with Seth Everett and Jim Bowden this morning to talk about all things Washington Nationals and if anyone was looking for any awkwardness between the current and former Nats' general manager, (well Mr. Bowden took care of that with the first question), Mr. Rizzo was sure to point out that he's where he is now, at the helm of the nation's capital's favorite team, because his former boss brought him to Washington and there are nothing but good feelings on his part towards the former DC GM Mr. Bowden. What follows is the transcript of the first half of this morning's interview:
Jim Bowden: "First of all, how's my office, how does the chair feel and how do you like the three t.v.'s you're starting at right now?"
Mike Rizzo: "The three tv's are doing well, the office is a little chilly right now, as you remember, but I'm trying to get a little more comfortable, it's a big seat to fill, so..."
Jim Bowden: "Well I'm trying to lose weight so you don't have to make fun of my weight. Now let's talk about a couple of your moves this offseason, Mike. Let's start with the big one for you, you guys needed to get an innings eater in the rotation, a guy that's won 10 or more games for the last six years, talk about the signing Jason Marquis?"
Mike Rizzo: Well, it's just that, Jim and Seth. You combine a good make-up guy with some consistency, a take the ball attitude, a guy that's a veteran player, that we did a lot of research on, we talked to Tony LaRussa and a couple of managers that Jason pitched for, and a guy willing to share his knowledge and to be a mentor to the younger pitchers that we have. And you know, in a market, we thought that this was a guy that we wanted to jump on and would give us innings, leadership and a chance to win a ballgame every fifth day."
Seth Everett: The one thing that you've always talked about is establishing the foundation and then promising that the fans will start to see a return on that foundation, but the headlines this week have been about players from outside the organization, tell us where you weigh, how much you appropriate funds to bring guys like a Marquis, like a Pudge Rodriguez, as opposed to making sure that the focus of the fanbase in Spring Training is on the youngsters?
Mike Rizzo: "We've done an admirable job over the last three drafts, we've spent a lot of money on the amateur draft, we're making inroads internationally, increasing our exposure there and our expenditures there and our base over...internationally...We've gotten a major league budget here, we've cleared some money last year, some players that have left us, so...The emphasis is always going to be on scouting and player development, we feel that's the way to build a franchise, but the moves like a Marquis and others have given us time for our minor leaguers, the guys that we've grown through our system to reach their fullfillment in the big leagues..."
Jim Bowden: Mike, the Nationals' payroll, based on the other 30 clubs, was 28th in financial exposure long-term, the only, there's really two players you have signed long-term, you have Dunn for one more year and of course you have Ryan Zimmerman, do you think there will be a time when the Nationals will be able to play for the top free agents in the market place.
Mike Rizzo: "I think so. I think we have a market here that can get us to that threshold. I think once the revenues catch up with the city and the dynamic here, let's not forget that the suburbs around Washington, DC are some of the most lucratives suburbs in the country, and I think when the product improves, the revenues will improve, and I think when the revenues improve we'll be able to compete in the very difficult National League East..."
Seth Everett: Explain the thought process on "Pudge"? What can Pudge bring to this organization?
Mike Rizzo: "We thought that we needed a veteran presence behind the plate. With a young pitching staff and a young prospect catcher in Jesus Flores, we thought that we needed some veteran leadership, a guy who could mentor a staff, and to get him on a two-year deal kind of gives us a timetable to get our other catching prospect Derek Norris to the big leagues. We think the timetable worked out well for us, and the fact that we needed a guy who was more than a backup, a guy that could play on an everyday level for 80, 90 games in case of Jesus Flores not coming back from the shoulder and elbow surgery that he's had over the winter. So that was kind of the thought process to it. It also lended us credibility in the industry, it was a great aid for us when we were recruiting a starting pitcher in that market, also was instrumental in us getting Capps, they both mentioned that throwing to Pudge was very, very instrumental in them coming to the Nationals..."
Jim Bowden: Mike, you made a trade last year for Nyjer Morgan from the Pirates to solve the defensive problem that the club had in centerfield, certainly he can run the ball down...you've still got some issues at second and short where you don't have the range and the defense that you really need at those positions. There's a couple of free agents sitting out there still that if they're healthy certainly could be a stopgap, I'm speaking of Orlando Hudson and Orlando Cabrera, we just got off the phone with Bill Smith (GM) of the Twins, he says he's going to pass on Cabrera, so there's not many teams out there for those two guys, is there a shot that the Nationals sign either one of those?
Mike Rizzo: Well, we've got some feelers out to a lot of different players, a lot of different positions, we're trying to get better defensively up the middle, you know, we've put together kind of a 'pitch-to-contact' rotation here so we certainly need to get better defensively. We think we've helped ourselves with Pudge behind the plate and Morgan in center. Guzzie at shortstop, although his range...he's got fairly good hands and fairly good feet, but his range has obviously backed up on him a little bit, and we do need to get better at second base. So we have talked to both of the representatives for those two players and several others that we do have interest in, we've known going into the winter that that was going to be a point of emphasis and we're working on all facets of trying to stabilize the up-the-middle positions..."
Seth Everett (paraphrasing): Do you know what Stephen Strasburg is doing right now?
Mike Rizzo: "No I don't know what he's doing right now. I know he's just got married and he's on his honeymoon, so I'd rather not address that question. He's on his honeymoon, and up until now we've kept a pretty close tabs, as you would imagine, about his rehab on the little knee glitch that he had in the Arizona Fall League, he's happy healthy and should be a 100% coming into Spring Training when the pitchers and catchers meet down in Melbourne on the 19th."
To be continued...