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Baseball world expecting big things from Nationals’ Mike Rizzo... In Rizzo We Trust?

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Will Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office be able to find what Washington needs this winter? How will they find it?

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Dodgers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Washington’s Nationals are reportedly interested in Chicago White Sox’ lefty Chris Sale, if he’s made available.

They are reportedly in the market for a middle-of-the-order bat and back end of the bullpen help.

New York Post writer Joel Sherman spoke to rival executives last week who said that the Nationals are also aggressively shopping Gio Gonzalez.

An AL executive Sherman spoke to said they’re expecting bold moves from Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo this winter, as he tries to build a team that can get past the NLDS after another division title in 2016 (the third in five years) and another loss in the division series (the third in five years).

“[Mike] Rizzo is pretty bold,” the unnamed executive said. “He is going to do whatever he needs to do.”

Going back through his trade history, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote last week that if anyone can make a trade for Sale and have it work out to their benefit, Rizzo is one of the GMs who could actually make it happen.

“[B]ased on the track record of Washington general manager Mike Rizzo, there would be a good chance that the deal would work out,” Olney wrote.

“As one of Rizzo's peers noted, ‘He doesn't make bad trades.’”

While mentioning the notable exception of the Jonathan Papelbon deal (which sent prospect Nick Pivetta to the Phillies, but didn’t exactly work out for the Nationals), Olney went through the history of trades that brought the likes of Trea Turner, Joe Ross, Gonzalez, Denard Span, Wilson Ramos, Doug Fister, Trevor Gott and Mark Melancon to D.C. in return for the likes of Steven Souza, Travis Ott, A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, Derek Norris, Alex Meyer, Matt Capps, Tyler Clippard, Yunel Escobar, Robbie Ray, Ian Krol, Steve Lombardozzi, Felipe Rivero and Taylor Hearn, and concluded that Rizzo consistently seems “to get good value” for what he gives up, while compiling an “impressive history of deal-making.”

In a chat with readers this past Monday, veteran Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell talked about the same trades when asked whether or not the Nationals will make a big splash this winter, noting that Rizzo doesn’t have a history of parting with top prospects in a win-now move.

“Rizzo is a build-the-organization and the title will come in due time kind of GM,” Boswell wrote.

“I think that Rizzo believes, as long as he has his scouts and entire organization functioning well, that windows can stay open indefinitely. Not forever, but indefinitely. And that you never trade away huge chunks of the future -- young players you can control for six or seven years at paltry to middling prices, allowing you to save your cash for free agents.

“I don't now how many times he has to say that his goal is to build a ‘90-win team every year’ that can make the playoffs, that will sometimes win 95-or-more, but will sometimes have bad luck or performance and only win 85, before people actually believe him. He isn't the Go For It guy with the Nats. That's Ted [Lerner], who was big in the [Max] Scherzer and [Rafael] Soriano signings. But Ted has never been part of a big TRADE (except to require considerable convincing to allow the three-decent-prospects-for-Gio Gonzalez trade to go through.)

“Let’s see, how many have they won in the last five years? 98, 86, 96, 83 and 95. That's 91.6-a-year. Gee, maybe he means what he keeps saying.”

“How many ‘elite prospects’ has Rizzo traded away in that time?” Boswell asked rhetorically.

“Did he trade Trea Turner? Did he trade [Lucas] Giolito, or anybody else, last summer when ‘everybody’ was talking about the Nats getting [Aroldis] Chapman or Andrew Miller for somebody like [Victor] Robles or [Reynaldo] Lopez?

“Instead, he got Melancon for very little, compared to a top prospect.

“So, if he bundles two or three big prospects in a trade for Sale, it may be wise, but it will also be out of character -- as least as far as Rizzo's baseball decision-making character has shown itself so far.

“Spend money for free agents, yes.

“That's a pure addition of talent and doesn't weaken the long-term future since you can continue to draft, sign and develop your own talent internally. Spend several top prospects to ‘go for it now,’ no. They haven't done that. YET.”

You can add MLB.com’s Richard Justice to the list of writers around the baseball world who think Rizzo and Co. will do something big this winter.

Writing about which teams to keep an eye on as the Hot Stove heats up, Justice wrote on Monday that, “General manager Mike Rizzo and team ownership are thinking big.”

“Having won the second-most regular-season games in the Majors the past five seasons, Washington is looking to get over the hump in October.

“The Nationals could end up making two big moves, say, for both a closer (Chapman) and a middle-of-the-order bat ([Yoenis] Cespedes).”

It’s too late to get Cespedes, who returned to the New York Mets on a 4-year/$110M last night, but Chapman is still out there if Rizzo wants to finally get the left-hander he’s been after since Chapman was first available as an international free agent.

Will Rizzo lock up the “one that got away” this winter now that Chapman is once again available?

As the WaPost’s Boswell wrote elsewhere in his chat with readers, the Nationals and Rizzo, “... have been magnetized since they tried to sign [Chapman] out of Cuba for $[30.25]M,” only to get outbid by the Cincinnati Reds.

“Some players, that get away, stick in a team's craw,” Boswell added.

“They imagine what ‘might have been’ if they'd gotten him and, when he's available once more they just can't bear not to pursue the Do Over.”

Will Rizzo finally get Chapman this winter? Where will they find that outfield bat? Will he be able acquire a starter like Sale without depleting the high-end organizational depth?

In Rizzo We Trust?