Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked for his thoughts on rumors of the Nats’ interest in free agent starter Jake Arrieta back at the Winter Meetings in early December. He didn’t offer much, telling reporters, “He’s a great pitcher, but we’re nowhere close to doing anything.”
In an MLB Network Radio interview a few days later, Rizzo, in talking about a meeting the team and its owners held with Scott Boras this winter, was asked if he had discussed Arrieta with the pitcher’s agent.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk about Jake Arrieta, one of the premier pitchers in the game,” Rizzo said.
More recently, in another MLB Network Radio interview, Rizzo was asked for an update on the Nationals’ roster needs with the start of Spring Training approaching, and how closely he and the rest of the Nats’ front office were monitoring the market for pitching with a number of the big name free agents still unsigned.
“Not very closely,” Rizzo 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.”
Rizzo also added that Cole, out of the two candidates for the fifth spot, was likely the current frontrunner going into Spring Training since he was out of options, had impressed down the stretch last season, and, “showed the promise that we’ve been looking for for the last couple years,” over his final eleven starts of 2017.
In spite of all Rizzo has said publicly about having confidence in the Nationals’ in-house options, and even after the Nationals added Edwin Jackson and Tommy Milone to the mix as starting depth, some people still think that Arrieta and the Nats will ultimately come to an agreement that will add a No. 3-type starter to the rotation, push Gonzalez and Roark back, and give the Nats one of the top staffs in the game.
With less than a week to go before Nationals’ pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, a number of free agents, Arrieta included, remain available, so the chatter continues.
Though Arrieta seemed to be on his way to a “[David] Price-Clayton Kershaw type megadeal,” after winning the NL Cy Young award in 2015, USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale wrote in an article on the free agent market today, “along came nagging injuries, reduced velocity, and concerns about his violent delivery that could lead to arm problems before his next contract expires.”
“One of the biggest fears for teams seeking Arrieta: What do the Cubs know about him that the rest of baseball doesn’t? The Cubs and Arrieta barely even engaged in contract talks this winter, leaving a reunion as unlikely as a Bill Belichick comedy show.”
The Cubs did, however, make a 1-year/$17.4M qualifying offer to Arrieta, which he turned down before becoming a free agent, 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 the right-hander (or any free agent who received a qualifying offer) this winter, they will forfeit their “ ... second-highest and fifth-highest pick in the 2018 draft, and lose $1M in International Signing Bonus pool money.”
Will the Nationals, who are by most estimations, currently slightly over the $197M competitive balance tax threshold for 2018, paid a 20% tax on overages last season, and would pay a 30% tax this season for going over again, add what Nightengale guesstimates will end up being a 5-year/$120M deal for Arrieta to the payroll?
“Agent Scott Boras may be relying on old pal Ted Lerner once again to save the day,” the USA Today reporter wrote, referencing the oft-mentioned relationship between the agent and his favorite destination to place his clients.
In his MLB Network Radio interview last week, Rizzo was asked if he had the financial flexibility to add what’s needed this winter, or once the season begins.
“The ownership here has been terrific with me,” Rizzo said.
“They’ve always given me the resources to do the job that we have to do and to win as many games as we can, so I don’t see that changing. We’re in constant contact. I talk to Ted Lerner, our primary owner, several times during the week in the offseason, and we have a great relationship. I think he’s very informed and knows what it takes to win, and like I said, the resources have been there throughout my tenure here, so I don’t see that discontinuing.”