There was plenty of chatter, but not a lot of movement from the Washington Nationals through the first two days of the Winter Meetings last December. Then on Day 3 of the yearly gathering of the baseball world, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo traded three well-regarded pitching prospects to the Chicago White Sox in return for outfielder Adam Eaton.
Will Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office find the relief help they’re after today, finish up with the Rule 5 Draft tomorrow, and head home to D.C. for WinterFest with a new starter or reliever to talk about and introduce to the nation’s capital?
When Rizzo talked to reporters on Tuesday night in Orlando’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, he said nothing was imminent.
“We’ve met with a lot of agents, a lot of teams, we’re kind of setting some foundations and kind of discussing things here with the group,” Rizzo explained.
Multiple reports on Tuesday had the Nationals expressing interest in free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta, a Scott Boras’ client, and one of the top starters on the market.
Rizzo said on Monday night that he liked the in-house options for the fifth spot in the rotation, and he was looking for depth, knowing that, “it’s a very long season and very few seasons you go through with five starters.”
As for Arrieta, in particular?
“We’re just in the information-gathering stage right now,” Rizzo explained, “and he’s a great pitcher, but we’re nowhere close to doing anything.”
Is he looking for long-term stability and pitchers who will be under control for the next few seasons?
“We always like guys that we can control for multiple years, but that doesn’t preclude us from going in other avenues also,” Rizzo said.
Free agency? Trade?
“We’re open to both like we always are,” the GM said. “I think we’re going to find the best avenue for us which gives us the most value in any type of deal. The thing with free agency is it doesn’t cost you any prospects, but the trade market is sometimes more beneficial.”
Note: Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes mentioned on Twitter on Tuesday that in Arrieta’s case, signing the right-hander could actually cost the Nationals prospects:
Keep in mind, the Cubs made Arrieta a QO. Under new CBA, because Nats crossed Competitive Balance Tax mark last year, would have to surrender 2nd- and 5th-highest draft picks as well as $1 million in international bonus money to sign him. That's a whole lot.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) December 12, 2017
There have been some big signings this week, and with the relief market, in particular, picking up over the last few days, Rizzo was asked if he thought a big move might start a flood of activity as things start to wrap up in Florida.
“I think the market is moving at a little slower pace this year,” he said, “but often times it gathers steam and gets a momentum and then you see a rush of guys that sign.
“I can only speak for us, and we’re going to go at our own pace and try and do what’s best for our team.”
So, while we’re at it... how about a potential Bryce Harper extension? Is that going to happen this winter?
“We’re not going to discuss what we’re going to do with Harp,” Rizzo said, “other than that we love having him in the organization.
“We’re the team that drafted him, developed him, and he’s performed greatly for us, but we’re going to keep all those discussions internal.”
How about adding outfield depth?
“We think our outfield is our strength, that’s where our greatest depth [is], that’s where our most impactful players are.”
So, no additions in the outfield? “We like our situation a lot.”