Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office got off to a strong start this winter, addressing their bullpen and catching needs early in the offseason.
With October’s trade with the Miami Marlins for reliever Kyle Barraclough and the signings of one-time St. Louis Cardinals’ closer Trevor Rosenthal and free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, the Nationals got started on the work of filling their obvious roster needs for 2019.
In an interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Wednesday, Rizzo was asked if he jumped on the bullpen additions early because relief help was on the top of his list of needs as a priority, or if it just worked out that relief help was the first thing to get attention.
“At that time of year, you’re looking for some type of values,” Rizzo said. “We didn’t mark our calendars and say we’re going to have two potential answers in the back of our bullpen by Thanksgiving, but it worked out that way. We took advantage of — Miami was trying to come up with some international spending money to do what they’re trying to do, and we thought it was a good value for Barraclough who — his stuff is terrific, has had some early success in the big leagues, struggled a little bit in the second half of last year, but we’ve seen enough of him up close and personal to know what his capabilities are. Same thing with Rosenthal. We’ve seen him for years and closing out big games and pitching big innings, and both of the guys are stuff guys with nasty demeanors that we think capable of handling those back end of the bullpen type of games.”
Suzuki, Rizzo explained, was a, “sneaky kind of elite type of catcher in the game for the last couple of years,” who filled another obvious need on the big league roster, though he’s not necessarily the last catcher the Nationals will sign.
“We’re certainly are going to get our feelers out there and see if we can upgrade if it’s possible to do that and have more depth in the organization but [Suzuki] was a good acquisition for us,” Rizzo said.
As for the rest of the roster? There are rumors that the Nationals have looked into some of the free agent second baseman on the market, and starting pitching is another area of need. And then there’s Bryce Harper, who’s testing the free agent market at the moment.
Rizzo summed up the state of the Nationals’ roster and how he thinks Washington will react to what is a more competitive division than some people thought it would be at the start of the 2018 campaign, with the Atlanta Braves coming off a division title and the Philadelphia Phillies threatening to spend big on the free agent market after a somewhat surprising run.
New York’s Mets are making some noise with a new GM and aggressive trade discussions, and Miami is once again rebooting with the most of their improvements cosmetic (to their ballpark), though they made a splash in the international market as well.
“We’re going to attack this offseason like we’ve attacked every other offseason,” Rizzo said.
“We have a laundry list of things that we would like to upgrade, improve, tweak, and that type of thing, and we talk about the youth of the Braves, and we’ve seen that and the Phillies are coming in the right direction. We’ve always had respect for the Mets with that rotation, they always give themselves a chance to win, and the Marlins are rebuilding and they always give us trouble it seems each and every year.
“So we respect the division. We’ve won it four out of the last seven years. We thought we were going to win it last year. We should have won it last year. We had the team to win it last year. We didn’t. We earned the record that we had last year and we think that we are the favorites or the team to beat in the division this year. We talk about the youth of the other clubs, when you’re talking about we’ve got a 19-year-old left fielder [Juan Soto], we’re going to have a 21-year-old center fielder [Victor Robles], we’ve got a 29-year-old right fielder [in Adam Eaton].
“With or [without Bryce Harper] we’re going to have either a 26-year-old free agent out there or go with the core that we have.
“Michael [A.] Taylor is a dynamic player. You’ve got [Anthony] Rendon and [Trea] Turner and three horses in the front of the rotation, you’ve got three good arms at the back end of the bullpen and you’ve got some good young kids to sprinkle in. So the Braves aren’t going nowhere and the Nats aren’t going nowhere. We’re here and we’re entrenched and our goal is to always play meaningful games in September and October and I think that it’s going to be no different this year.”