The first order of business, after deciding to part ways with Dusty Baker this offseason, was for the Washington Nationals to find a new manager, which they did fairly quickly back in early November. Dave Martinez was hired away from the Chicago Cubs after he served as Joe Maddon’s bench coach there and in Tampa Bay for ten seasons.
Martinez, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo explained again on Sunday afternoon, when he spoke to reporters at WinterFest in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, checked a lot of boxes they were looking for in a new skipper after two years of Baker on the bench.
“You talk about he filled a lot of things that we were looking to have in our new manager,” Rizzo said. “He communicates well, he set cultures in two prestigious organizations. An old-school baseball guy with 16 years under his belt that really embraces the analytical aspect of baseball.
“A guy who’s handled superstar players and the 25th man on the roster with the same respect and admiration, a guy who communicates well and is going to bring an energy and exuberance to the position that is going to make a difference.”
Up next was addressing the bullpen, which the Nationals did by bringing back sinker-balling right-hander Brandon Kintzler, who tested the free agent market and decided to come back to D.C. after the Nats had acquired him from the Minnesota Twins this past July.
Rizzo said the 33-year-old reliever passed up some opportunities to close elsewhere in order to come back to the Nationals.
“I think there were those offers to pitch the ninth inning exclusively, to have more save opportunities, to make more money,” Rizzo said, “but I think the relationship that he had with his teammates, specifically his bullpen teammates and the relationship that we’ve had I think aided him in making the decision more based on chance to win and comfort level than it was a monetary thing.”
Having added Kintzler to the mix, along with Ryan Madson (in the eighth), closer Sean Doolittle (in the ninth), right-handers Koda Glover and left-handers Shawn Kelley, Enny Romero, Sammy Solis, and Matt Grace, Rizzo said he was happy with the depth in the bullpen.
“We feel good about it. We like the back three, and the front five, so we’ve got a lot of different looks in the bullpen,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of hard throwers, we’ve got a lot of guys who can strike people out.
“We’ve got guys who have a year more experience under their belts, and we feel good about it.”
And the rotation? Rizzo has talked previously about being happy with the top four of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark, and the depth with A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde expected to compete for the fifth spot.
Will the Nationals be in the market for another starter? Will they add an arm to the front end of the rotation?
Rizzo was asked what he saw as the depth behind the top five or six starters?
“We’ve got the new young stable of guys, the Crowes and the Romeros, and that type of thing behind the Coles and the Feddes,” Rizzo said, referring to the Nationals’ top 2017 Draft picks, Wil Crowe and Seth Romero.
“So we feel good about our depth. It’s strong, and on the big league side we’ve got three guys locked up long-term, we’ve got Gio for this year, and so we’re four strong this year and our two young kids, and we feel good about both of those guys.”
The bullpen options seem deeper than the rotation depth. Will the Nationals still try to add a starter to the mix via free agency or trade?
Will they take fliers on veteran arms or perhaps try to sign a big-ticket arm like Jake Arrieta, a rumored pitcher of interest for the Nats this winter?