In the immediate aftermath of the Washington Nationals’ sell-off at the trade deadline this past July 30th, GM Mike Rizzo explained that the club assessed their situation throughout the organization and decided it was time to take a step back and reboot things in order to start building another championship contender.
“We felt that looking at our talent-base in the big leagues, after all the COVID situations, all the injury situations, and the performance on the field, that it was time to take a step back, reboot this thing and build us another championship-caliber baseball team,” Rizzo said.
“The players that we acquired today at the trade deadline, and the last couple of drafts and trade deadline acquisitions we had, will be the core of this next championship-caliber club, and that’s our goal.”
In order to kick things off, however, Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office traded away Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Jon Lester, Josh Harrison, and Yan Gomes, all of whom were on expiring contracts, and also sent one year-plus of control of Trea Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Scherzer in a deal that brought back four of the twelve prospects the Nationals acquired that day.
The players they added to the organization, some of whom ended the season in the majors with the club, will hopefully kickstart the process if all goes to plan, but the next step is the roster-building they do this winter, and with all the money that came off the books with the trades, there is an expectation that the club will be big spenders in the free agent market this winter.
[ed. note - “It should be mentioned here that Rizzo discussed potential free agent spending this winter at this past July’s deadline, noting that when the Nationals rebuilt the organization between 2009-12, before their first postseason appearance in 2012, they developed their prospects and added to the mix once their in-house talent was on the cusp. ‘Right before the impact at the big leagues, when our young players came to fruition, and we became a really good team,’ he explained, “... we went out and made some impactful free agent signings, and I think that’s the best way to kind of combine the two, is grow your own, develop your own guys, and when they become ready for impacting the big leagues, then you go out and get your guys to finish it off.’ But that was in late July. Now it’s November, so where is the GM in D.C. at in his thinking about the reboot at this point?”]
“It’s a great challenge,” Rizzo said of the roster building plans when he spoke with MLB Network High Heat host Christopher Russo.
“We’re excited about the challenge ahead for us, and we’ve done this before, and we think we have a good blueprint on how to try to compete in a very balanced and tough division, and we’re looking forward to the challenge of building a sustainable championship-caliber club like we have for the last ten years.”
“It was painful at the trade deadline,” Rizzo acknowledged of the deals that sent away some established stars who were part of the 2019 World Series-winning roster.
“You know these guys a lot and you’re used to competing in September and October,” he added, “... playing meaningful games, and to trade away some of the biggest stars in the game was difficult, but we thought that it was the right course of action to take at this point in our franchise’s history, but we’re a competitive bunch and we are looking to reboot and get back in this thing and start challenging for world championships again.”
Is it fair to assume, Russo asked Rizzo, that whether through free agency or trades, the club will make significant additions to the roster this winter for 2022 (and beyond)?
“We haven’t taken anything off the table,” Rizzo said. “It’s a fair assumption that we’re going to try to build a consistent winner over the years. I’m an impatient person and I hate losing more than I like winning, so that’s something that we’re not used to here and we don’t like.
“We’re going to do everything we can to become a championship-caliber club again. We had a great run of eleven good, solid, competitive years where we were competing for championships, we won four division titles, a Wild Card, and a world championship in that ten-year period, so we’re used to success here, and we’re going to battle and put together a team that will compete sooner rather than later.”