If you were hoping for some clarity on the decision Washington’s Nationals made on Sunday afternoon to release veteran reliever Jeremy Jeffress for what GM Mike Rizzo said in his brief statement yesterday were “personnel reasons”, you are going to be disappointed.
Both Rizzo and Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez declined to elaborate on the impetus for the move when they spoke with reporters on Zoom calls from West Palm Beach this morning.
“He was released for personnel reasons,” Rizzo said last night, as quoted by Washington Post reporter Jesse Dougherty.
“We’re just going to stand by the statement I made yesterday,” Rizzo said when asked about the move again this morning.
“It’s a personnel matter,” he reiterated, “... we’re not going to discuss it any further per our policy on personnel matters, and we’re just going to keep it at that.”
In text messages with the WaPost’s Dougherty, Jeffress, “... did not divulge how the team explained its decision to him,” but, “[h]e did say the reason the team gave him was ‘not true’ — without clarifying what that reason was — and expressed frustration with how the situation was handled.”
While Jeffress, as noted in the WaPost piece, has a history of suspensions, and personal, off-field issues, Rizzo said the club does their homework on players before signing them, which has become a hallmark of the team under his guidance, and that was the case with the deal with Jeffress he said, when asked about doing due diligence on the background/character of the players they sign.
“Again, we’re not going to get into that, that’s kind of getting into the Jeffers situation. But you know the way we do our business here,” Rizzo said.
“We do a lot of due diligence and character is a big thing here in this organization. So we stand on our track record with that and we do a lot of work on it.”
Asked if it was something specific which happened yesterday morning or a decision that was made over time, Rizzo said simply, “We’re not going to comment on that.”
As for defining “personnel reasons”, Rizzo said, “a ‘personnel reason’ is an employment issue.”
So, not on-field/performance related?
Martinez didn’t add much in the way of information either, telling reporters in his own Zoom call, “I’m really not inclined to talk about it. Mike talked about it. It’s a personnel situation, so I’ll just leave it at that.”
The Nationals did sign Jeffress late this spring, so did they think they were in need of depth in the bullpen, and is the manager happy with the depth now that he has been released?
“We definitely have enough guys qualified,” Martinez said. “I think [Wander] Suero, [Kyle] Finnegan, we’ve got a couple of left-handers right now that I really like. We can actually look at some of those guys and be able to keep maybe one more guy other than [Brad] Hand.
“So, the good thing is we have a lot of depth. I like the guys that we have. They all are doing well. So, there’s going to be a battle for that spot, so I’m looking forward to watching these guys compete this spring.”
“We like the depth of our bullpen,” Rizzo said when he too was asked about the depth they have assembled in West Palm Beach.
“We’ve got a lot of veteran presence there and a lot of good, young optionable arms that we believe that are going to help us throughout the season.
“I believe this is probably the best depth that we’ve had at this time of year in quite a few years here. So we like our young depth, we like our veteran presence, and we think, as far as a pitching staff as a whole, we really like where we’re at at this particular junction in Spring Training.”