Washington Nationals' Skipper Jim Riggleman joined Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan on ESPN 980's The Sports Fix this afternoon to discuss the Nats' signing of former Phillies' outfielder Jayson Werth to a 7-year/$126 million dollar deal yesterday. Mr. Riggleman said the deal was part of the plan all along, not a reaction to Adam Dunn leaving the nation's capital for Chicago. "Mike Rizzo and the Lerner family handled all of this and had conversations with Jayson Werth," Riggleman said, "Mike Rizzo and I talked about it in August and September, if the Phillies don't bring Jayson Werth back he would be a great option for us, and if we could get it done great. Certainly, you know there's a lot of clubs out there with interest in Jayson, so we didn't have any real concrete thoughts that we would thought it would get done, but Mike and the Lerners made a great commitment and they got it done."
The Nationals' manager explained that the team's ownership did offer Adam Dunn money, he just got a better deal from the White Sox than what Washington was offering. It was a baseball decision and not a money decision, Mr. Riggleman said, "Unfortunately the Lerner family took some hits in Washington from fans and bloggers and so forth about not coming up with the money, and the fact is they did come up with the money, it's just the White Sox came up with more and more years. We made a commitment to Adam Dunn but the White Sox made a stronger commitment."
"It wasn't about money," Riggleman repeated, "We offered a lot of money to a pitcher [Jorge De La Rosa] who chose to resign in Colorado, so that wasn't about money, but we didn't get that player either."
As far as whether or not this was the Nats' only move of the offseason, Mr. Riggleman reiterated what D.C. GM Mike Rizzo said yesterday, the Nationals are not done adding talent to the roster this offseason. The money given to Werth, Riggleman said, "...[is] not going to tie our hands this year or next year. It's just a commitment to a player who's in his prime, that we feel is in our division who was a force to be reckoned with against us that now we can put on our side."
Phase Two? Does Jayson Werth make you a contender? "If you look at all the teams that contend and the clubs in the playoffs, it's all comes down to pitching," Riggleman responded, "...and we know that for us to really take the next step it's going to have be with the addition of some pitching and that pitching may come in the form of Stephen Strasburg in another eight or ten months, it may come in the form of [Sammy] Solis who we drafted last year who's made a lot of progress in the Fall League and guys like John Lannan and the ones that we already have like [Jordan] Zimmermann, these guys, these pitchers that ultimately they will really put a big stamp on how far you can go."
"You can't win with no offense," Riggleman continued, "We got to have offense and Jayson Werth's a good offensive player, [Ryan] Zimmerman, [Ian] Desmond, the young kid [Wilson] Ramos that we got. We'll get a first baseman one way or another. We'll have another player there. [Josh] Willingham. We feel like we've got a lot of offensive players now, we're getting more athletic on the field, but ultimately we know that we've got to upgrade our pitching as well."
Can you pencil in your outfield now or are there more moves to be made? "I don't know that there's any more moves to be made in the outfield," Riggleman responded. "I don't know yet. I do know that Werth and Nyjer Morgan will be out there. Willingham's name gets tossed around a lot in trade [rumors], but I anticipate that Willingham will be there. We've got two guys [Roger] Bernadina and [Michael] Morse that are very capable outfielders and Morse can play first base also. A lot will depend on if somebody overwhelms Mike Rizzo concerning Willingham I guess that that could change things, but right now my feeling is that it will be Willingham, Nyjer Morgan and Werth out there."