The first step this offseason, after parting ways with veteran skipper Dusty Baker, was to hire a new manager, which the NL East champion Washington Nationals did, giving Dave Martinez his first opportunity at any level of the game. Up next, was Martinez’s coaching staff, which was hired and settled rather quickly considering it was almost a complete turnover from Baker’s staff, with only third base coach Bob Henley returning.
Chip Hale joined the Nationals as Martinez’s first bench coach, Derek Lilliquist came on as the pitching coach, Kevin Long joined the Nationals as the new hitting coach, with Tim Bogar as the first base coach, Joe Dillon as assistant hitting coach, and finally Henry Blanco as the bullpen coach.
“The coaching staff, I really feel like we got a great coaching staff,” Martinez said today, when he met with reporters at the Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.
“A lot of guys that I wanted, a lot of guys that were on our list,” Martinez explained.
“Mike and I put a list together and we got the guys that we really wanted, the guys that we thought would fit, not just for me but for the players and the organization and they're really looking forward to it.”
Now the Nationals move on to the roster, where they have needs in the bullpen, in the rotation, and on the bench.
“There's some things that we're looking at, some possibilities,” Martinez said today.
“Right now on paper we're pretty solid all the way around. But there's always, if you can better your team and your organization, then there's always things you can do.”
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo talked in Orlando’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort this afternoon about what the Nationals need to add to the roster this winter.
Rizzo has talked previously, at the GM Meetings last month an in various interviews, about the need to add an arm to the rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark, and he said again today he was thinking more about adding depth than making a splash with a high-end arm since they have some depth with the likes of righties A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde.
“We have great confidence in our in-house options,” Rizzo said. “A.J. Cole threw the ball extremely well his last seven starts last year. His stuff was good, it up-ticked at the end of the season, and of course we love Fedde. He’ll be healthy and have some major league time under his belt, so we feel good about where we’re at. So what we’ll be looking for is depth, just because it’s a very long season and very few seasons you go through with five starters, so we want to add to our depth not only in the rotation but in the bullpen, and just kind of do our stuff along the periphery of the roster.”
In the bullpen, Rizzo said, the Nationals are looking to find the right fit and a good value.
“We’re going to look for the best value that we can get,” he explained.
“We’ll identify guys that we like and if we can get a value we think that fits for our club, we’ll jump on it.”
“In my mind we have a plan for where we’re at with our bullpen and what we have currently and what we would like to acquire either via free agency or via trade,” he continued at another point in his meeting with reporters.
“We’ve got a good plan in place. We think we’ve got a lot of bullpen arms, and left-handed we’re really deep there left-hand-wise in the bullpen and we’ve got some nice right-handed options too. A lot of it is going to be dictated in Spring Training on the health of [Shawn] Kelley and [Koda] Glover. Those are two big keys for us. We expect both of them to be 100% ready for Spring Training and full-go.
“So, if those two guys bounce back and have the seasons that Kelley has had in the past and we perceive that Glover is going to have, we’re going to be a deep, talented bullpen.”
With the likes of Howie Kendrick, Adam Lind, Stephen Drew, and more now free agents, the Nationals need to add some bench bats to the mix as well.
“I think the bench was a big part of our success last year,” Rizzo said.
“Given all the injuries we had at key spots, at different times during the season, that bench carried us for a couple months at a time. We’ve got to get the right mixture.
“We’ve got to get the right skill set, but also the right character and the right attitude that accepts the job and really wants to do the job. So, it’s a delicate balance.
“We’re talking with Davey about what he likes, how he’s going to run a game, and that will also go into our decision-making process on who we get and the type of person we get.”
The decisions the Nats have to make on the bench, Rizzo explained, will, obviously, be determined by the makeup of the rest of the roster.
“I don’t think we can go generally — say what we’re looking for — I think it’s more specifically based,” he said.
“When we look for a bench player we look for certain things in the makeup of the entire bench. One move plays off the other, and we’d like to get ourselves the best well-rounded team we can that gives Davey the most options to do with the bench — play them the way he wants to.”
One place Rizzo said he wouldn’t necessarily be looking for an upgrade in spite of some speculation that they might? Behind the plate.
With Matt Wieters back for a second year (at $10.5M), and Pedro Severino and Raudy Read in the organization, Rizzo said he’s happy with the catching depth.
“We think Wieters is going to be a bounce-back candidate this year,” he said.
“He caught a lot of games for us last year, we’d like to curtail that a little bit. We love the upside of Severino, and fortunately in our organization we have a lot of depth catcher-wise. Raudy Read is right around the corner and Sevy has shown us he can handle the pitching staff defensively and he’s shown some flashes offensively of being a guy that can be an everyday catcher for us.”
The Nationals know what they want, and what they need, now they have to go out and get it...