Back in May of 2016, one month before a deadline to exercise or decline a club option covering the 2017-18 seasons, the Washington Nationals’ ownership group announced that they had picked up the option for General Manager Mike Rizzo.
"We are pleased with the job Mike has done over the past nine years," Nats’ Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner said in a press release on the decision.
"He and the baseball operations team have worked tirelessly to help build this organization into one of Major League Baseball’s elite clubs.
“We are fortunate to have him."
"I am honored by the Lerner family’s continued faith and confidence in me and am thrilled to be remaining with the Washington Nationals organization," Rizzo said.
With four division titles (and yes, four NLDS losses) over the last six seasons, a rebuilt farm system that’s developed prospects who’ve helped out at the major league level and been used in trades, and the second-most wins in the major leagues over the last five seasons (2012-2017), the Nationals’ ownership’s confidence is fairly well-founded.
Rizzo is, however, heading into the second season of that two-year extension and as of now there has been no word of an extension for the Nats’ General Manager, who was asked by Washington Post beat writer Chelsea Janes recently if he would initiate talks about a deal.
“I will not,” Rizzo said. “I will allow them to talk to me if they choose to.”
Mr. Lerner, in a conversation with Washington Post columnist Barry Svrluga, said he did hope the relationship with Rizzo would continue.
“I would hope so,” Lerner said. “We haven’t reached that stage yet. But we would hope to continue success with him.”
Rizzo said he wouldn’t allow his own contract status to become a distraction from all the things he and his staff are trying to accomplish this winter.
“It doesn’t change anything,” he told the WaPost’s Janes.
“I was an area scout for 13 years. I was on a one-year contract for 21 years in a row, and I’m fine with that … My resume is what it is, and it doesn’t change what we’re doing.
“We’re trying to win in ’18 and be a playoff-contending team for the long haul.”
He reiterated that stance during an interview on the MLB Network show “MLB Now” this past Monday afternoon, telling the hosts he wouldn’t be distracted.
“The Lerner family and I have great respect for each other,” Rizzo said.
“We’ve had a great relationship and that’s the furthest thing from my mind right now.
“We’re trying to build this team. I was an area scout for a long time, I was on twenty-one one-year contracts as an area scout in my career. We’re good where we’re at and I’m worried about one thing, and it’s to put the best product that we can on the field for 2018 and beyond. That’s my focus and that’s where it will remain.”
Rizzo’s focus is where it should be. Is the Nationals’ ownership’s? Will they lock Rizzo up along with the players (Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy) whose contracts are set to expire after the 2018 campaign? Will Rizzo’s tenure in D.C., which goes back to 2006, when he was the first hire made by the Lerners after they took control of the franchise, extend beyond the end of next season?