In a wide-ranging MLB Network Radio interview on Wednesday morning, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked to “Power Alley” hosts Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin about the remaining roster needs for the defending NL East champs, the free agents still on the market, and the Nats’ level of interest, and the battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation in the nation’s capital.
Predictably, Rizzo reiterated on Wednesday what he’s said all Winter, there aren’t too many needs on the major league roster. At this point, the Nationals have addressed a numbers of the positions that had to be filled.
“We’re really satisfied with the team that we have right now,” Rizzo said.
“We came into the offseason with some things on our checklist that we wanted to get done. We think that we’ve got ourselves an improvement on our bench.
“We brought Howie Kendrick back, we’ve got [Brian] Goodwin and [Wilmer] Difo from last year, we’ve got [Pedro] Severino as our backup catcher this season, and [we] went out and got Matt Adams.
“We feel really, really good about the bench that we put together. Our bullpen is really solid. We’ve got good medical reports on Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover, which is going to really, really help our depth in our bullpen, and with [Sean] Doolittle, [Ryan] Madson, and [Brandon] Kintzler at the back end of those games we feel really good about that.
“We love our starting rotation and we’re going to have a healthy Adam Eaton this year, and we feel really, really good about the eight position players that we’re going to run out there every day. So we feel really good about where we’re at. We’re always looking to add depth and that type of thing to weather a few injury storms and that type of thing.”
As the folks who run the MLB Network Radio Twitter feed noted, that didn’t sound like someone who’s planning on trading for Miami Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, though we know Rizzo is, of course, not one to give anything away when he doesn’t have to.
Speaking of which, Rizzo was also asked about the number of free agent pitchers still available this Winter, and whether one might end up being a fit with the Nationals if the price is right as things drag on in the Hot Stove season.
So how closely is Rizzo following the free agent pitching market?
“Not very closely,” he said.
“We’re really satisfied with what we’ve got. We’ve got ourselves a good rotation. We’ve got four horses at the top. We’ve got a Cy Young winner [Max Scherzer]. We’ve got [Stephen Strasburg], who should win one and may win one, and Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark. We’re solid four. We’ve got good young starters behind [them] in A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde, and we feel comfortable where we’re at.
“Where we’d like to add is [to the] depth, and so us and 29 other teams would like to have some depth starters, so that’s kind of what we’re looking for, and if we can find a good value out there we will certainly investigate it, but as of right now we feel good about where we’re at going into Spring Training.”
Once they get to Spring Training, who does Rizzo think is going to end up winning the battle for the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation?
If they don’t add anyone to the mix, who’s the current frontrunner to join Scherzer, Strasburg, Gonzalez, and Roark?
“Well, I think A.J. Cole is the frontrunner,” Rizzo said. “He has no options left and Fedde does. A.J. Cole pitched very, very well at the end of the season. You’ve got a guy with a sub-4.00 ERA and pitched down the stretch, his last eleven starts were great, and his last seven were really, really good. He showed the promise that we’ve been looking for for the last couple years. I think that he’s probably the favorite right now going into it, but we’ve got a good competition and we’re going to see how it plays out.”