NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: While reporters were waiting in the lobby for an elevator to the Washington Nationals’ suite in the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center where GM Mike Rizzo held court this afternoon, there were a number of tweets and reports on the ongoing discussions the Nationals are having with other teams at the Winter Meetings.
After several days of rumors about the Nationals’ interest in Chicago White Sox’ lefty Chris Sale and Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Rizzo addressed the rumors as directly as possible without giving anything away.
He has indeed talked to both teams and others, he said, and he’s willing to deal if the right trade is available.
“We’ve had ongoing discussions with a lot of teams,” Rizzo said.
“The White Sox and the Pirates have been two of them, but we’ve got a lot of lines in the water, we’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, all those things. And like I’ve said before, we’re going to be aggressive if the occasion arises, but we’re going to be prudent and smart about it.”
Asked if he saw trade possibilities that could provide what the Nationals are reportedly after this winter, Rizzo said there are plenty of opportunities.
“We see opportunities in the trade market, we see opportunities in the free agent market,” he explained.
“There are values that we see that could be seen as big-splash items, but there are also items that sometimes are the most important, the small tweaks that you make to the roster.”
A sampling of some of this afternoon’s Nationals-related chatter, some of which Rizzo addressed:
#pirates ask of Robles & Giolito was rebuffed by Nats, who also wonder about McCutchen's possible skill decline, leadership— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) December 5, 2016
Giolito is a name in the mix in sale/nats talk. As said earlier, Washington is trying.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 5, 2016
Asked directly what he thought the Nationals chances of landing either McCutchen or Sale were, Rizzo reiterated that if the right deal is there, he’s willing to make a move.
“If the deal is right, we’ve shown in the past that we’re not afraid to pull the trigger and make a deal,” he said.
“But the deal has to be right. We’re all about win/win deals, so if we get what we want and we give away what we feel is a fair deal for a player, we’ll make a deal. If we don’t, we won’t make one.”
The names being bandied about, however, Victor Robles (who the Nationals reportedly declined to include in a McCutchen deal), Lucas Giolito (their top pitching prospect), Reynaldo Lopez (23 with a 98 mph heater) and Trea Turner (who is also reportedly untouchable) are the same names that were in the news at the non-waiver deadline, when reports said the Nationals were unwilling to part with their top prospects.
Has anything changed in his view of those players since then?
“Our strategy very rarely wavers,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got a plan in place, we’ve got a strategy that we’ve employed. Prospects are important to us for the viability of the long-term, like we talked about before, of the organization and like I said, prospects, we have a lot of them, we couple that with a good young core of players already at the big league level, a 95-win team, we’re coming off a 95-win season with a good young team, flexible positionally and an organization that we feel is viable for a long time.”
As for the pitchers in particularly, both of whom debuted in the majors last season with mixed results? Did his thoughts on Giolito or Lopez change?
“I thought their stuff was outstanding,” Rizzo said. “They are still two of the brightest prospects in all of baseball. They’re guys that we’re going to count on both in 2017 and beyond and they’re elite prospects in the game right now and in the very near future.
“These elite prospects become viable major league commodities for us and I think those two guys are going to have good long careers.”
So there’s no urgency to make big additions after the disappointing end to the 2016 campaign?
“No. I do not feel urgency,” he said. “I think urgency is a mistake. We’re coming off a 95-win team with a good young core of players and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”