In an appearance on the MLB Network's Hot Stove show on Friday afternoon, Washington Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo talked to hosts Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian about the difference veteran skipper Dusty Baker can make when he joins an organization.
"Dusty is a highly-accomplished veteran manager that's won each and every place he's gone to," Rizzo said.
"When he comes into a new organization there's usually an uptick in performance and in [wins]. It was a disappointing season for a lot of different reasons. It's very rarely one person's fault when you don't reach expectations. A lot of things come into play. I think Dusty is going to bring us a renewed energy. He's really an upbeat person, kind of a renaissance man in his own right, knows a lot of people, a lot of stories, a lot of ways to motivate and to keep things fresh and locked throughout 162 games."
When the search for a new manager began, immediately after Matt Williams was relieved of his duties on the bench in the nation's capital after the Nationals failed to reach the postseason, Rizzo talked about where the organization was at and the importance of getting a manager with experience at the major league level.
"We feel that where we're at in our timetable in our time frame of winning a championship, we certainly would lean towards someone that has some type of managerial experience, especially at the major league level," Rizzo said.
"But again, we're going to be open-minded and look for the best candidate we can that allows us to win a championship here in the very near future."
Two months later, with Baker and his staff under contract and the Hot Stove season heating up, Rizzo talked on the MLB Network about where things stand right now.
"We like where the franchise is positioned," Rizzo said.
"We've got a good major league product at the top. Since 2012, we've won the third-most games in all of baseball, we've been to the playoffs twice. We've won two division titles in four years. Have we gotten to where we wanted to get? No. We want a World Championship in Washington, D.C.
"We haven't gotten there yet, so we view that as not reaching our expectations and our goals, but we've got a good young core of players, we've got a great, fertile minor league system. We've got a process in place on how we make decisions and our decision-makers, we think, are some of the best and brightest in all of baseball.
"We've got ourselves a good scouting and player development staff. We've put it together from really a small, skeleton staff when we took over. And we can't look past the fact that we're not an old organization. We've been going ten years. We've had some success in the ten years. Expectations have been high. We haven't met those expectations, but we think we're positioned well to not only win a lot of games in 2016, play meaningful games in September and October, but also positioned to be good and consistent -- a consistent winner throughout the long-term and that's always our goal. To win in 2016, but always have a view toward the long-term. To keep us relevant throughout and to be a consistent winner."
Having worked with Baker to put together an impressive collection of coaches, Rizzo is reportedly in the process of finding bullpen help as well after the back-end of the 'pen was a serious issue last season.
While he said on Friday that he was willing to keep both Drew Storen and Jonathan Papelbon in the bullpen in 2016 if there wasn't a "real baseball deal" out there for one of the relievers this winter, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote Sunday night that a source told him, "Papelbon and Storen are likely to be moved."
Multiple sources have said the Nationals are interested in free agent reliever Darren O'Day with ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick writing Sunday that Washington and Los Angeles were believed to be atop the list of suitors for the right-hander.
Rosenthal also noted that, "... talk persists within the industry that the Nats are one of the clubs trying to land Reds closer Aroldis Chapman."
MLB Network Radio host Jim Bowden suggested on Sunday that Washington and Houston were considered the frontrunners for the hard-throwing Reds' lefty if Cincinnati does deal the reliever as expected:
.@JimBowden_ESPN on Chapman: "I think it's Houston or Washington and I think they are both in this thing. CIN could make a nice deal w/ WAS"— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) November 22, 2015
While rumors of the Nationals' interest in Chapman persist, Rosenthal notes that the Nationals, "... consider a left-handed hitter to be perhaps their biggest need, and also could be in the market for a starting pitcher."
Relief help, a left-handed bat and an addition to the starting rotation?
Rizzo talked about those possibilities when he spoke to reporters at the recently-completed GM Meetings.
"We know we need to get more left-handed to balance ourselves, to balance our lineup up, so we’re cognizant of those things," he said, as quoted by Washington Post writer James Wagner.
As for the starting rotation?
"I’m happy sliding Tanner and Joe in the rotation," Rizzo said. "With that said, you can never have enough good starting pitching."
As Rizzo explained, things tend to heat up at the Winter Meetings, which take place from December 7-10 in Nashville, Tennessee. Can the Nationals get what they need through free agency or trades?
Can Dusty Baker take the Nats to the next level after disappointing losses in the NLDS in 2012 and 2014?