On Sunday afternoon, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo pulled off his 11th trade with the Oakland A’s since he took over as the Nats’ General Manager in 2009. With the deal for relievers Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson, Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office addressed the one glaring, obvious need on an otherwise impressive roster. So is Rizzo done dealing?
Early Monday morning, Rizzo appeared on Sirius/XM’s Fantasy Sports Radio with Jim Bowden and Craig Mish to talk about the deal, and potential future moves, but first he explained how the discussions with Oakland began, and how long it took for the trade, which sent Blake Treinen, Jesus Luzardo, and Sheldon Neuse to the Athletics, to come to fruition.
“Like most trades when they culminate in an actual trade, the groundwork started a while back, probably a month or so ago,” Rizzo explained.
“[A’s GM] David Forst and I first started discussing some bullpen options and that type of thing, and then when the three of us got together, Billy [Beane] and I really started discussing a single Madson trade, and it was a Madson deal that we were trying to get done. We really couldn’t come up with a match that fit with both of our needs, so we thought that if we expanded the trade it would be more beneficial to both clubs, and once we started the discussion about a multiple player trade it really came together like a lot of the trades that Billy Bean and myself do, it came together rather quickly.”
So if Madson was the original target, Rizzo was asked, is it safe to assume that the 36-year-old reliever who saved 32 games with the Phillies in 2011 and 30 in 2016 with the A’s, but has mostly worked the seventh and eighth this season, is going to be the Nats’ new closer?
“We feel that the impetus here was to shorten the game for us,” Rizzo said, “to improve our bullpen.
“It was a weakness that we’ve been trying to fix since the offseason, and we couldn’t get anything done and we finally made some steps in the right direction.
“Both guys have closing experience, they’ve done it, they’ve both pitched successfully in the back end of games in playoff action and they’re veteran guys. Their stuff is still really good, and they attack the strike zone and I think that we’re going to sit down with both guys — the good thing about these two players, we’ve known them for a long time and they’ve played with people that are on our team. Madson played with Blanton and Werth, and Doolittle played with Ryan Zimmerman in college, so we know the characters pretty good, they’re great clubhouse guys, they have absolutely no egos whatsoever, we’re going to put them in the best position to succeed and to help our bullpen, and I wouldn’t assume anything until we discuss it with the two players.”
Rizzo went on to say that in the end, the decision on who closes will be Dusty Baker’s to make.
“Obviously Dusty and [Pitching Coach] Mike Maddux have the ultimate decision, and they’re the guys who are going to be making the call for them, so we’ll see where we’re at, but what we think we’ve done is we’ve addressed a need, we’ve put two really good relievers into our system, they’re guys that are not rentals. We’ve got control of Sean for the near future and Ryan for this year and next, so we feel good about that.”
Doolittle, 30, signed a 5-year/$10.5M extension with the A’s in 2014 that is paying him $2.7M this season, and will pay him $4.35M in 2018, with a $6M club option for 2019 and a $6.5M club option for 2020, with $500K buyouts for each of those years.
Madson, who signed a 3-year/$22M free agent deal with the A’s in 2015, is earning $7.5M this season, and he’s due $7.5M in 2018.
Trading Treinen, who had a breakout campaign in 2016 but struggled from the start this season, and their second and third round picks from the 2016 Draft class, Rizzo said, was a reasonable price that made sense for both teams considering where both franchises are at right now.
“We thought it was a good acquisition,” Rizzo said. “It’s never easy to give up good, young players, as you guys know, but we felt that this was a good, fair baseball deal for both organizations, and I think that’s the way that I like to do business. Both teams are in different positions and they did what was best for their organization, we did what we needed to do now, and I think both teams can come out of this saying that they accomplished what they were trying to do.”
Multiple reports on Monday had the Nationals in the market for relief help (and more) even after the trade with the A’s:
madson &/or doolittle could close for nats. but word is they're still weighing trading for closer. options: britton, d-rob, wilson, etc.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 18, 2017
Rizzo didn’t rule out the possibility of adding more arms to the bullpen.
“I never say ‘never’,” he said. “We’ll look at all aspects of the trade market, what fits for us financially, roster-wise, impact-wise, prospect-wise, and make as good of decisions as we can.”
While the Nats’ GM wouldn’t say which pitcher will handle the ninth, he was clear that the Nationals will settle on one reliever, noting that he and Baker are not fans of going with a closer-by-committee approach.
“I do think we are going to pick a player to pitch the ninth inning and a guy to pitch the eighth inning,” Rizzo said.
“I don’t think it will be closer-by-committee, we just have to sit down with the two pitchers, the pitching coach, and the manager, and figure out who we want to do it, because we have two very capable guys who could pitch the ninth inning and there may be scenarios where a left-handed guy in the ninth inning would be more beneficial than a right-handed guy in the ninth inning, and Sean’s record against left-handed hitters this year has been really, really good, so there’s times we could do that, but I think Dusty nor I like closer-by-committee, so I think we’re going to put guys in their roles, but we want to make sure they are comfortable in those roles and we’re going to discuss it with them when we see them.”