Mike Rizzo was circumspect when he was asked in an MLB Network appearance earlier this month about where the Washington Nationals are in their organizational reboot and what it means for their offseason spending this winter as the try to reshape their roster and build a competitive team in D.C. following their sell-off at the trade deadline this past July.
“It’s a great challenge,” Rizzo said of the reboot. “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.”
Asked what areas of need they were looking to address this winter, Rizzo said, “... you never have enough pitching, starting and relieving, we’re going to certainly address that,” young, returning players like Luis García and Carter Kieboom need to take the next step, and get more consistent, and “... we certainly could use a bat or two to surround [Juan] Soto and [Josh] Bell with, and so that’s kind of our wish list. We’ve got options of going in different directions with some different skill sets, but that’s more or less what we’re locked in on at this point.”
At the GM meetings, @PeteAbe asked Mike Rizzo if he would be interested in bringing Kyle Schwarber back.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) November 18, 2021
Rizzo's answer: "Yes. I love him ... What's wrong with him? He hit 35 homers." https://t.co/o63bJ2nkVD
With that talk about a bat or two to surround Soto and Bell, the fact that Davey Martinez and Kyle Schwarber (who signed a one-year deal with the Nationals last winter, started slow, tore the cover off the ball in June, before he was injured, went on the IL, and was traded away the following month) were hunting together in Ohio last week made some headlines, though in an MLB Network appearance of his own, the manager in the nation’s capital avoided making any comments about a potential reunion with the slugger when he too was asked about the team’s offseason plans.
“We’ve been sitting down talking about a lot of different possibilities,” Martinez said.
“Actually, we are going to get younger,” he added.
“I like the mix of veterans and young guys. I really believe our organization is going to be set up for years. We’ve got some young candidates that are going to help us here in the near future, especially on the pitching side of it. So we’re excited about the direction we’re going to go in.”
Rizzo said at the end of the regular season that the continued development of the younger major-league ready players in the organization will go a long way in determining what sort of moves the club makes to bolster the roster this winter and going forward.
“Timelines are kind of at the will of the players on the roster,” Rizzo told reporters.
“It depends on how quickly does Keibert Ruiz become that frontline catcher, and [Josiah] Gray become a frontline starting pitcher, and the bullpen matures, the [Mason] Thompsons and that type of thing, and what have we built around them and what does the draft class, the [Cade] Cavallis and the [Cole] Henrys and that group, what do they look like.
“So those are all questions that we need to answer in the near future, and I think those are all legitimate questions that we all have to look at.”
They didn’t put up with what they did after the deadline last year in order to do it again this coming season, so in their minds, Rizzo and Co. are planning on competing in 2022.
“We took a beating this year, absolutely, we lost come key players, but we’re going to give some of our younger guys an opportunity to play now, and they’re coming,” Martinez said last week.
“I really believe that they’ve done a great job in our minor leagues with some of our guys, and we got some pitchers in Cavalli, and Cole Henry, [Joan] Adon who you guys saw briefly last year in a game at the end of the year, we think is going to help us maybe some time this year. So the future is bright for us, and we’re going to stay the course.
“We’re going to compete. As you know, [Rizzo], myself, our ownership, we like to win, and we’re going to put the best team out there to try to compete and win again... soon.
“We’re not talking about rebuilding, this is not a rebuilding, we’re going to go out there and compete every day, so I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen this winter and getting ready for Spring Training.”