There has been plenty of talk about the Nationals being in “win-now” mode this winter, trying to capitalize on the opportunity at hand in 2017-18 before players like Jayson Werth (under contract through 2017), Bryce Harper (under team control through 2018), Daniel Murphy (who is signed through 2018 as well) and others can potentially leave Washington, D.C., but none of it is coming from the Nats, really.
Ask General Manager Mike Rizzo about the Nats looking at a two-to-three-year window and he’ll tell you the organization is built to be competitive year after year.
Rizzo reiterated his stance on the state of things in the nation’s capital just last week.
“I think we have an extremely bright window in 2016,” he explained on the first day of the Winter Meetings. “For a two-year period and for well beyond that.”
“The scouting and player development system that we’ve put into place here is second to none.
“We’ve got ourselves a good nucleus of a ballclub in the big leagues, we’ve got good prospects to come. The prospects, we can put them into our lineup or we can package them together and trade them for immediate help, so there [are a] lot of different avenues we can go. We’ve got player flexibility and positional flexibility.”
That was before Rizzo did indeed package prospects Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning in a trade with the Chicago White Sox for Adam Eaton.
But trading three of your top pitching prospects for an everyday outfielder who can help you right away is clearly a “win-now” or “go for it” move, right?
“The fact that we have Adam Eaton for five seasons and control of him for five seasons is a long-term, global type of decision,” Rizzo said after the deal was announced.
“We feel that we put ourselves in a position not only for '17, to be better, but to be better in the long term.”
While the overwhelming response to the trade was that the Nationals paid far too much for Eaton, Rizzo and at least one other National challenged that thinking.
“We feel comfortable with the deal,” Rizzo told reporters.
“We've done a lot of deals. I like win/win deals. I think the White Sox did a great job of acquiring good, potential upside players. We got ourselves a good, young skillful player that we can control at below market values for five seasons and, again, you’ve got to give to get.
“We certainly got what we wanted in Adam Eaton. The White Sox should and do feel good about what they acquired in this.”
“The White Sox get three kids that have a chance to be really good and we get a guy that doesn’t ‘have a chance’ to be good, he already is really good,” Ryan Zimmerman said last week.
“For me, I take that chance every time.”
Zimmerman, who’s under contract through 2019 with a club option for 2020 ($18M or a $2M buyout) and a five-year personal-services contract that begins once his playing days end, was asked about the two-year window talk as well, but he didn’t think it was a case of having to win right now.
“Going back to that question, the ability for us to do that [trade with the White Sox] is because of the farm system and the way that we develop young guys,” he explained.
“They’ve done such a good job, it seems like we keep replenishing. You can always go out and get some free agents as well. I don’t like to ever say ‘window’. I mean, Max [Scherzer] and [Stephen Strasburg] and Tanner [Roark] and those guys -- kind of pitching takes you as far as you’re going to go and with those two guys at the top who are signed for however many years they’re signed for, if they can both stay healthy, your window is as good as they are.”
“Windows are a part -- that’s just the reality of sports,” Max Scherzer said when asked for his thoughts on the “win-now/window” chatter.
“But your windows are only as good as your talent,” the two-time Cy Young Award winner continued, “so if you have talent, you always have a window.
“It’s just a matter if you don’t have talent you don’t have a window, that’s just the reality of sports.”
Dusty Baker’s bench coach, Chris Speier, dismissed the idea that there might be a greater sense of urgency going into 2017.
Baker will be in the second year of his two-year deal in D.C., coming off a disappointing postseason loss, but Speier said there wasn’t any added urgency, though he did say you do want to try to take advantage of any and all opportunities.
“I don’t know about urgency,” he explained.
“I think when you look at an organization, you look at the pieces that you have in place. We’re in a really good spot, we really are.
“We have a lot of good players, and you just want to take advantage of those situations when you have those players.
“I don’t know about the urgency part of it.
“I just know we’re kind of locked and loaded, ready to move forward. I know that we’re looking at a few pieces that we’d like to solidify, and those are big pieces, we’re not going to sugarcoat this. We need to get that end of the bullpen closed up, and hopefully that works out.
“We have some pieces in place that can fill in in that situation. You don’t want to fill in, you want to add to, so I’m hoping that Rizzo and Mr. Lerner can work their magic.”