In a conversation with reporters last week, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo made it seem like the defending NL East champions were happy with their roster as it stands now, saying that most of the work he wanted to do this winter got done early in the offseason. Was this just another example of the poker-faced General Manager refusing to give it up when reporters tried to pry something out of him? They don’t call him “Run Silent Rizzo” for nothing. [ed. note - “Nobody calls him that.”]
“We kind of got our shopping done quickly,” Rizzo explained, as quoted by MLB.com beat writer Jamal Collier.
“We had a strategy going into the offseason and I think we fulfilled the strategy, albeit early in the offseason calendar. I think we got guys we wanted. We identified them, we went after them hard and got them.”
Rizzo has stated all winter that the Nationals are comfortable with the in-house options in the organization competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, and the organizational depth behind the top four starters and those in camp legitimately competing for the final spot.
Rumors persist, however.
Just last week, FanRag.com’s Jon Heyman wrote about the Nationals as a potential landing spot for free agent right-hander Jake Arrieta, who remains unsigned with Opening Day a month away.
“GM Mike Rizzo is said to like the idea of Arrieta,” Heyman wrote, “... though there’s been a winter-long question of whether they had the budget for it.”
“Rizzo told his people that he didn’t think they did at the Winter Meetings, but things can change. While they would have to go over the luxury tax threshold to sign Arrieta, there’s a good chance they could reset next winter when they have a slew of free agents, including Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Gio Gonalez and about half their bullpen.”
The Nationals already (reportedly) over the luxury tax threshold for the second season in a row, and there are other considerations too.
Before Arrieta became a free agent, the Chicago Cubs made a 1-year/$17.4M qualifying offer to the 31-year-old starter, so, as MLB Trade Rumors noted earlier this winter, if any of the five teams (Detroit, LAD, NYY, San Francisco, and Washington) that paid a competitive balance tax last season signs him (or any of the remaining free agents who did receive a qualifying offer), they will also forfeit their “ ... second-highest and fifth-highest pick in the 2018 draft, and lose $1M in International Signing Bonus pool money.”
In spite of those concerns, Heyman wrote that with all of the Scott Boras’ clients who are already on the roster in the nation’s capital, “it wouldn’t shock anyone if they found a way to land Arrieta.”
According to a report this morning from USA TODAY’S Bob Nightengale, the Nationals and Arrieta “remain engaged” as the former Cy Young award winner searches for a new home: