Now that the 2009 trade deadline has passed, acting GM Mike Rizzo can focus on his next goal, signing Stephen Strasburg. While Rizzo works on that, Stan Kasten should focus on a different goal: bringing stability to the Nationals by finding a permanent GM. Though there have been some names thrown around already (Jerry DiPoto), Mike Rizzo has earned a shot and deserves to be the Nationals' GM.
Rizzo has already shown that he has a good eye for talent in his work with the Diamondbacks. With Arizona, Rizzo brought in Mark Reynolds, Conor Jackson, Brandon Webb and others, assembling a Diamondbacks team that won the division in 2007. With the Nationals, we've seen that Rizzo is capable of making good trades, bringing in Sean Burnett and Nyjer Morgan and trading away two players that just weren't working within the Nationals organization.
His trades at the deadline, too, were pragmatic and logical. Nick Johnson, an emotional favorite in Washington, would have been a free agent at the end of this season and wasn't on track to earn the Nationals any compensation picks had he signed elsewhere. Joe Beimel was average at best, and, at 32, was too old to fit into any long-term plans for the Nationals. In both cases, Rizzo traded for young arms, part of his long term plan to upgrade the Nats' bullpen and perhaps earn some trading chips in the future.
Instead of going into full-blown demolititon mode, a la the Pirates, Rizzo has elected the more conservative approach of wait and see. After the deadline, he called up Elijah Dukes and bought Jorge Sosa's contract, hoping to bring stability to the bullpen. I'm excited to see how his plan plays out through the rest of the season, as the team we're going to see from now on is basically the team we'll be seeing all of next year. Willingham has been playing very well of late, Adam Dunn is tied for fourth in home runs in the NL, Dukes had that great slide into second yesterday, and, most importantly, the Nationals have committed just one error in the last nine games. In keeping this team together, Rizzo is giving them time to play together and jell. I'm more excited to see the end of this season than I ever have been in my time as a Nationals fan, particularly when Riggleman and Rizzo are going to keep giving young pitchers a chance to prove themselves at the major league level.
Finally, it's important to remember that Mike Rizzo has only been at this for five months, promoted to the acting GM position on March 1 after Jim Bowden's resignation. He came in to an impossibly difficult position, but has made a number of great moves in his short time here. No GM can be expected to turn around a team as bad as the Nationals in just five months, but Rizzo's plan seems to be a good one so he deserves another year. If the Nationals aren't any better next year, find somebody else. If Rizzo is not given the GM position, Stan Kasten is sending the message that he is more interested in winning in the short term than the long term, an attitude the Nationals can not afford to have.