Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was making the rounds this afternoon, appearing on both 106.7 the FAN in D.C. with Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier and MLB Network Radio's Inside Pitch with Casey Stern and Jim Bowden to talk about what the Nats have accomplished this winter as they try to build a roster that can defend the team's NL East crown. What follows are some of the quotes from the Nationals' 52-year-old Executive Vice President of Baseball Ops and GM and links to the audio from each of the interviews he did this afternoon...
(ed. note - "Questions paraphrased for brevity's sake."):
• 106.7 the FAN In D.C. interview with Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier:
• Assess the team right now?:
Mike Rizzo: "I like where we're at. The composition of the ballclub is good. We're a little different team than we were last year. We're going to have a little bit better On Base Percentage than we've had in the past. We're going to be a better defensive club, especially in the outfield this year. Our bullpen I think is a little more experienced and deeper right now. We're still very young, very athletic, we can score runs in a lot of different ways and I think you're going to see the team be more aggressive on the bases, stealing more bases and be more efficient offensively."
• Why sign Rafael Soriano with an already-strong bullpen?:
Mike Rizzo: "He's done it as a closer his whole career. We've seen him a lot when he was in Atlanta and succeeded in Tampa Bay and the big stage in New York City didn't faze him. We feel that he's battle-tested and he's ninth-inning tested and it just gets us that much deeper. We feel Drew Storen is a closer, he's been a closer in the big leagues, he's a closer in the future, he's got the mentality and the stuff for it. Tyler Clippard has shown that he can close games successfully. He's got the temperament and the stuff to do it. So it just gets us deeper. It strengthened a strength. We feel that the way the contract is structured it makes a lot of sense for us. It works within our payroll constraints and ramifications. And we just felt that it was a good opportunity to strengthen ourselves with a really good player and we just didn't want to let it pass us by without pulling the trigger on it."
• Did Nats' owners say go ahead and get Soriano as some reports have mentioned?:
Mike Rizzo: "No certainly not. We've got a plan in place. You guys, the media and the fanbase and that, they look at the 25-man roster. I look at a 250-man roster, including the whole organization from top-to-bottom. We've got a plan in place. We think that we have an opportunity and a window here to be very, very competitive and to win a lot of ballgames, but we feel that our window is fairly large because of the age component and control of the players that we have. This was, again, this was an opportunity to get a good player and structure the contract as such where we're deferring a lot of money well out into the future which makes it much more feasible for us to get the [deal] done and without that we couldn't have done the deal."
• More moves coming for the bullpen?:
Mike Rizzo: "We feel that we've got a very deep and dangerous bullpen. It's a stuff bullpen. The back of the bullpen is going to consist of [Rafael] Soriano, [Drew] Storen, [Tyler] Clippard, [Craig] Stammen, [Ryan] Mattheus, Henry Rodriguez will be competing for a job. We've got Zach Duke as our lefty. Billy Bray is going to be competing for a job and we think it's a strong bullpen that has power and swing and miss stuff. They were a great bullpen last year and I think they're going to be as good if not better this year."
• Michael Morse trade?:
Mike Rizzo: "The main reason to move Michael Morse was the players we got back in return. We gave up a lot of good young prospects in the last couple of years with the Gio [Gonzalez] trade and the Denard [Span] trade and we felt that it was an opportunity, because of the personnel that we have on the roster, to utilize Michael in a capacity to get back some of those key components. When we went out and the interest level was good, we thought we were going to make a good deal and when we got a frontline prospect like A.J. Cole, [he] was going to be the center piece of the deal and added two more components to it, we felt that it was a good time to pull the trigger to kind of refertilize our minor league system and also give Mike Morse an opportunity to play every day and to show what he can do. It's a contract year for him and it's a way for him to further his career and have a good year and then become a free agent."
• LISTEN to the full interview with 106.7 the FAN In D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier.
• MLB Network Radio interview with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern:
• When did you decide that you would deal Michael Morse?:
Mike Rizzo: "When we found out the interest level of the other teams. We just didn't want to trade the player. We thought he had value. We feel he's a terrific offensive player and we weren't going to move him for a left-handed relief pitcher-type of guy. We thought that to move this guy we would have to get a return that helped us replenish our minor league system that's taken a hit over the last couple of offseasons with some trades. And with the activity that we had and the interest we had, we soon knew that there was enough interest out there to get an A-level prospect and possibly another B or two and we thought that we accomplished that with the trade to Oakland and Oakland trading him over to Seattle."
• Talk about A.J. Cole's issues in the California League last year?:
Mike Rizzo: "That California League, as you know, Jim, that's a tough league to pitch in. It's such an offensive league, because of the conditions in the ballparks and that type of thing. When I was in Arizona, we had our club in the California League and it's an offensive-orientated league. We scouted him. We saw him in the Cal League and in the Midwest League and the stuff was the same. The velocity is good. He's a big, strong guy who's never missed a start and never had any tweaks or anything like that so we feel that he'll be a 21-year-old player in High-A and possibly Double-A this year and he's still on a good track and developmental curve and we like where he's at stuff-wise and performance-wise. For the Midwest League he was terrific."
Mike Rizzo: "[Harper] is a young man. He's going to be a big, physical guy in the not-so-distant future. He did a great job for us defensively in center field, but, as you know, it's a very physically taxing position and the movement of moving [Harper] to one of the corners and getting a terrific defensive center fielder like Span really strengthens us in two positions. In center field with Span and on the corner with Harper and to flip-flop like a Mike Morse defender for a Bryce Harper defender in one of the corners I think makes our outfield really defensively elite."
• Where will we say Anthony Rendon playing this year?:
Mike Rizzo: "Anthony is going to come to Spring Training and play several different positions for Davey [Johnson] at Spring Training, but when we send him down to the minor leagues he'll concentrate primarily at third base. We may shift him around a little bit because we want [Matt] Skole to play a little of third base also in Double-A but we think his primary position is at third base, but he's athletic enough to play shortstop and second base and I think you'll get a look at him in those positions in Spring Training for sure."
• Will you still try for a left-handed specialist?:
Mike Rizzo: "Davey's not the type of manager who is going to go left-on-left a whole lot, and he likes his relief pitchers to pitch a complete inning. So it's not a vital component for us. If the right guy fell to us and we could make a deal, we would certainly be open-minded about it but when you look at Tyler Clippard, Craig Stammen and Ryan Mattheus, those guys really can get out left-handed hitters and it wouldn't be something that we would be fearful going into the season with just one lefty in the bullpen."
• Listen to the entire MLB Network Radio interview below: