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Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talks two-year extension with Nats; continuity in organization...

Before the home opener in Nationals Park on Thursday, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo got the contract extension everyone was waiting for him to sign. Rizzo talked to reporters about the two-year deal...

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New York Mets v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C.: There will be plenty of negotiating for the Washington Nationals to do next winter with the likes of Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy potentially headed for free agency, but before the home opener with the New York Mets on Thursday afternoon, they locked President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo up on what is reportedly a 2-year/$8M deal, guaranteeing that the GM will be the one talking to Harper, Murphy, or whatever free agent targets they go after once the 2018 campaign is over.

Rizzo, 57, was potentially headed for free agency as well, but the deal he signed with the Nationals last night will keep him in D.C. through at least 2020.

A possible extension has been in the works for a while, but it came together over the last couple days, and Rizzo signed it last night when he and his team returned from their first road trip of the season.

“I signed the paper last night when we got back from the trip,” Rizzo told reporters today, when he talked about the new deal before the home opener with the New York Mets.

“We’ve been in discussions for a couple of months right now, and we got closer the last couple days and we came to a decision last night and signed the contract.”

While it’s just a two-year deal, (as compared to what others around the league have signed, like Yankees’ Senior VP and General Manager Brian Cashman’s 5-year/$25M contract, or the Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman’s 5-year/$35M deal), Rizzo said he was happy with the terms he and the Nationals agreed on.

“When you’re talking negotiating and what’s important to you, there are several factors that are important to you,” Rizzo explained.

“My negotiating skills are much better when I’m negotiating for a trade or with free agents than it was for myself. You don’t usually buy a house when you’re negotiating a contract, but like I do a lot of times, I made no bones about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, and I came to a deal that I’m very happy with, very satisfied with, and the years are important to me, but the AAV (Average Annual Value) of the deal is right where I wanted it to be, and I think that everything else takes care of itself in the long run, and like I’ve told the players, ‘We win, we all eat better,’ so that’s kind of our motto.”

Rizzo also said it was important to get it done and avoid having it become an issue for the team, as they go for a third straight division title and try to get past the NLDS for the first time, after four losses in the Division Series in the past six seasons.

“I thought it was important for the team not to have this as a distraction,” Rizzo said. “And I thought going forward it was becoming — I heard some players being more vocal about it, so I’m glad it’s behind us now and we have some continuity and consistency.”

Having some of the players publicly voicing their support for him made an impact though.

“It’s uneasy to a point,” Rizzo admitted. “But we’ve got a good, strong relationship here with a lot of players, I think there’s a trust factor between players and management, especially myself, I’m with them a lot, and what I often tell the players is, my job is — I deliver a lot of bad news quite often to the players, and to have their respect is gratifying and humbling.”

The extension provides some stability and continuity, heading into what the organization hopes is a big season for the Nationals.

“That’s kind of the culture we’ve built here,” Rizzo said. “We’ve built a winning culture, we’ve got a winning franchise. We’re lacking the big prize, but we’ve put ourselves — in fairly short order, we’re a fairly new organization, coming from really a new franchise when we took over to one of the most consistent winning franchises in baseball, we’re proud of that, but we’ve got a lot work to do, and I think that this indicates the Lerner’s resolve and my resolve to do this thing long-term and to get it done.”

Asked what he was most proud of so far in terms of what he’s helped build in the nation’s capital, Rizzo said that answer was an easy one.

“I think that when we first got here we added to our scouting, player development, and building our international departments,” he said.

“When you look at what we’ve added here as far as quality scouts, player development guys, the international market, our analytical department, we’ve brought ourselves kind of into the 21st century since I’ve take over here and this is a total team effort. We’ve won a lot of games because we’ve got a great bunch of people here and it goes down to guys that you guys never see and don’t know much about that are the backbone of this organization, so I think I’m most proud of the people that we’ve brought in and the type of infrastructure that we have.”

That infrastructure now includes manager Davey Martinez, who signed on as the seventh full-time skipper in Washington this past November, when he wasn’t sure Rizzo would be here throughout the course of his own three-year deal with the Nationals.

Martinez was asked after the announcement on Rizzo’s extension, if he worried at all when he did sign about the possibility that the GM might not be in D.C. beyond 2018.

“It was a little bit of a concern, but you know, if you know Mike and you know what he does, it would be hard-pressed for anybody to let him go,” Martinez said.

“I mean, he’s really good at what he does. I’ve learned a lot about how you develop players and what he thinks of players, and he’s helped me out a lot so far.”

As for his thoughts on the extension for Rizzo? “Very excited,” Martinez told reporters before his debut as manager in Nationals Park.

“Since I’ve been here I’ve learned so much from Mike Rizzo and it’s nice to know that we’re going to be together for a few years. He’s great. We work really well together, and I’m very excited for him, his family and for this organization.

“He’s a good man and I love the conversations we have every day with him.”

The feeling is mutual.

“He’s a confident manager,” Rizzo said when informed of Martinez’s comments and asked about the conversations they have.

“He’s confident in his abilities. He, like we said when we brought him in here, he’s a guy that uses the analytics to his advantage, but is not afraid to go with his gut feel. He’s made a lot of — in a very short set of games — he’s made a lot of gut-feel kind of decisions, and I thought that they showed his aggressiveness, and his ability to make a tough decision in very short order, and I think he’s been tested early and he’s passed every test resoundingly.”

Will the two of them manage to bring a World Series championship to D.C. for the first time since 1924? With his own contract concerns out of the way, is Rizzo happy he can focus on the on-field product instead of the front office intrigue?

“I was always focused on winning,” he said. “I was focused on the next day. I think this is more important to the employees that we have, our scouts and player development and our front office and our players to know that I’m going be around and there will be consistency, more so than it was me worrying about it. I never doubted that we’d be in this position, but it’s good to have it behind us so that everybody can take a deep breath and relax, knowing that we’re going to have some continuity going forward.”