There is plenty of chatter about the Washington Nationals as the Winter Meetings approach, with rumors of interest in adding starting pitching (Chris Sale?) and relief pitching (closer?) and talk about the Nats looking to add a big bat (Yoenis Cespedes? Andrew McCutchen?) and a catcher (with Wilson Ramos headed for free agency).
It’s all just rumors at this point.
General Manager Mike Rizzo discussed the Nationals’ needs and offseason outlook in an appearance on the MLB Network’s Hot Stove Show on Friday morning, providing some insight into where Washington stands as they prepare to defend their NL East crown.
“We think we have a very good team as we stand today,” Rizzo said.
“We’re certainly not a perfect team. We have for really one of the first times in a lot of offseasons that we have a lot of positional flexibility.”
Rizzo has discussed the Nationals’ positional flexibility before this winter, which could allow them to add a bat wherever they can find one whether it’s in the infield or the outfield.
“We’ve got our rookie Trea Turner who can play center field, second base, shortstop,” he said on Friday.
“We’ve got Bryce Harper [who] is becoming a Gold Glove-caliber right fielder, can also play center field. So we’ve got a lot of moving parts which gives us a lot of flexibility in acquiring players to impact our ballclub.
“There are a lot of different roads you can go. There are payroll implications, there is budgeting, there is, ‘What is your depth in the minor leagues?’ ‘What do your replacement players look like that you can replace these starters with and what gives you the best bang for your buck and the most impact to your ballclub.”
In an article by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo from the GM Meetings, Rizzo talked to reporters about pitching depth in the organization, which he said he was satisfied with, though he added that, of course, you can never have enough.
With Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg (who’s working back from a partially torn pronator tendon and expected to be ready for Spring Training), Tanner Roark, Joe Ross (who missed time with right shoulder inflammation), Gio Gonzalez and a mix of options which includes right-handers Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole and Austin Voth, the Nationals have depth to fill out the rotation or trade for what they need.
“We feel fortunate in the depth we have in pitching at the big league level and prospect wise,” Rizzo told the WaPost’s reporter.
“I know that every team we talk to would like to be in the same position we are as far as starting pitching goes.”
So do other teams like the Nationals’ prospects?
“There’s a lot of action on our players,” Rizzo said Friday.
“As you know, there’s usually a cluster of seven or eight players in your minor league system that more or less everybody likes. They like a lot of our young major league players.
“We have an opportunity here where we have depth in starting pitching which is kind of an important thing in today’s marketplace, where we go five deep at the big league level and then we’ve got several prospects in the minor leagues that have already been pitching in the big leagues and kind of the second layer of that is guys that are on the come and could be in the big leagues some time in ‘17 or ‘18.
“So, it’s a good position to be in. You never have enough pitching. It’s the thing that separates most organizations and we feel good about the people we run out on the mound every day.”
Having starting depth didn’t stop the Nationals from adding Max Scherzer two winters back. Will they make a play for Sale if the Chicago White Sox do decide to deal the left-hander?
Rizzo said the trade market for pitching was probably more of an option this winter than the free agent market.
If an outfielder like McCutchen is available or if they take another run at Cespedes, will Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office pull the trigger? And where will they find a reliever or two or more to work the late innings if they don’t re-sign Mark Melancon?