Had they actually signed Jake Arrieta, (who received and turned down a qualifying offer from the Chicago Cubs before he became a free agent), the Washington Nationals, (who went over the competitive balance threshold in 2017, paid a 20% tax on the overages, and are already over the threshold for 2018 according to payroll estimates), would also have been forced to surrender their second and fifth-highest picks in the 2018 MLB Draft, and would have lost $1M in international signing bonus pool money under the rules of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.
They didn’t sign Arrieta, of course, in spite of the rumors of interest on the Nationals’ part reported all winter.
Arrieta agreed to a 3-year/$75M with the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday, landing with the Nationals’ NL East rivals.
So how involved were the Nationals with Arrieta and his agent Scott Boras before he did end up signing the deal with the Phillies?
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo answered that question in an interview with ESPN.com’s Buster Olney this morning.
“Like any other really good player in the free agent market we certainly monitored his market,” Rizzo said on the Baseball Tonight podcast.
“We were in conversations. We found early on in the process that the numbers didn’t fit at this time, for this particular player, and for this particular need, so when he signed with Philadelphia, we hadn’t been in direct talks for a while, but he’s a terrific pitcher and the Phillies just got better.”
The thinking, in reports tying Arrieta to the Nationals, was that they needed starting depth with A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde the top candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation, and the depth beyond the top five or six starters not as deep or impressive as it’s been in previous seasons.
Rizzo doesn’t appear to agree with that assessment of the organizational depth, however.
“We like our team, we specifically like our starting pitching, we like our depth,” Rizzo told Olney today.
“There are some young players behind — A.J. Cole and Erick Fedde and that group of guys, so we feel that our starting pitching is a strength,” he continued.
“We feel our depth is something that we’ve had here for a long time, and you can’t look past the accomplishments of these guys. We had three pitchers in the top six in the Cy Young voting, one of them wins the Cy Young (Max Scherzer), one comes in third (Stephen Strasburg), and one comes in sixth (Gio Gonzalez), and you have Tanner Roark who’s a workhorse, workman-like starting pitcher, and you’ve got a young kid that’s a prospect and maturing before our very eyes in A.J. Cole.
“His last starts last year were extremely good, his last seven were outstanding and he’s taken that into the offseason and into the winter and now into early Spring Training. His stuff is good, and Erick Fedde is touching 96-97 on the gun early in Spring Training.
“So we feel good about our team and specifically our starting pitching, and we like the balance of our roster going from 1 to about 46-47 deep on our roster.”
Check out the rest of Rizzo’s interview with Buster Olney below.
Rizzo talks about the rumors of interest in a couple of targets this winter, how they are handled by the front office, what he thinks about the bullpen this year and more...
Podcast: https://t.co/HKlI5Zthc9 Nats GM Mike Rizzo, on how close WAS got to signing Arrieta; @Kurkjian_ESPN on the team that has had the best offseason; @ToddRadom quiz returns.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 12, 2018