On the next to last day of the regular season back in early October, Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked if the pending (potential) sale of the franchise would impact the club’s offseason spending, building, etc., and he said it could, of course, have an impact.
“Well of course it could change if they sell the team, I think that would change things,” Rizzo acknowledged matter-of-fact-ly. “So I’m going to control what I can control.
“We’re business as usual. We’re going to go through the end of this regular season and do our postseason work and try to explore every way to get better.
“We’ll get our marching orders and our directions from above when we get them.
“But until then we’re business as usual like we’ve done every year.”
Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez, on the final day of the regular season, looked towards the offseason, and talked about where he felt there were needs the club would be looking to address this winter.
“We’re going into the winter with a lot of different areas that we need to fix,” the fifth-year manager said, “but what I do love is we get Cade [Cavalli] healthy, MacKenzie Gore, who’s going to leave here healthy, they’re going to get a chance to come in Spring Training and compete. You’ve got Josiah [Gray], who learned a lot, you’ve got Patrick [Corbin], who I really felt like over the last 6-7 starts he was getting back to what he was, so you’re talking about adding maybe 1-2 more starters and I think with doing that, with CJ [Abrams] and Luis [García] in the middle, Victor [Robles] playing center field every day, you know, I think we’re definitely going to get better.”
“Our bullpen, for me, it’s been one of the brightest spots we had all year,” Martinez added.
“Those guys endured a lot. But we definitely need to get some starting pitching that can go deeper in games, and hopefully in the group that I mentioned and then some others, we can do that.”
Rizzo said he and his staff were ready for the challenge of rebounding from finishing at 55-107, their, “third consecutive sub-.500 record,” which, as the Nats noted in their Season in Review, marked, “... the first time since 2009-2011 that the Nationals finished under .500 in three straight seasons.”
[insert Rizzo comments about how the current reboot is similar to the 2009-12 rebuild process]
“We’re going to attack it,” Rizzo said of his plan for this offseason. “First of all we’re going to do an autopsy of the organization after the season to see where we’re at. We’ll have a discussion with ownership to see where our parameters are, but suffice it to say we’re not comfortable with losing 100+ games, and that’s something we want to avoid again in the near future, and we’re going to put together an offseason that we’re going to be aggressively attacking the free agent market, the trade market, the international market, and any other market that helps us acquire impactful players that helps us get better sooner.”
The GM in D.C. pointed to the deadline hauls in the last two years, and the first-year and international draft classes in discussing where the organization stands going into the offseason, describing the return from San Diego in the Juan Soto and Josh Bell trade as, “the most significant step that we made this season.” The next step?
“The offseason we have to better ourselves,” Rizzo said.
“We have to see where our deficiencies are, where we can strengthen our roster, and like I said before, all these different venues, trade markets, free agent markets, international markets are going to be explored to get better.”
The work they’ve done in those areas since the club kicked off the reboot at the trade deadline in 2021, Rizzo said, has them in much better place than they were when they started the process.
“I think our system is different right now than it was a year ago. I think it’s deeper,” he explained.
“We’ve had two what I believe are successful trade deadline acquisition periods, we’ve had two successful drafts, we’ve done a good job in the international market, I think that our prospect depth is as good as it’s ever been here in the organization, and I think that the upside of our prospect list is probably the highest it’s ever been.”
In addition to the need for starting pitching, the Nats’ skipper said, they’ll need to add some pop to the lineup.
“Yeah, we have to find 1-2 guys,” Martinez said, “… but I think some of our younger guys you’ll start seeing a little bit more of the power come out, but for me it’s all about the starting pitching, I mean, I’ve seen teams back in the day where I played — St. Louis Cardinals stick out for me — they had Jack Clark, who drove in all the runs, but those other guys, you know, got on base, they were athletic. For me it’s about doing all the things, being more athletic, which we tried to do. We ran a lot more, we did a lot more hit-and-run, we bunted some, I mean, if you had that 1-2 guys in the middle of the lineup that can drive the ball, and I think Joey [Meneses] can be one of those guys as well, we got something. But if we don’t have starting pitching it will be tough.”
Looking at the 2022 campaign overall, Rizzo said, you have to put the struggles and all the losses in context considering where they are in the reboot process.
“I think you have to look at the big picture,” he explained.
“I look at this season as a disappointment. I’ve always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we’re the worst team in the league right now, and it’s hard to argue with that. But the flip side of that is we are in a process, and the process is tried and true, we’ve done it before, not a lot of teams can say that, and the process is moving forward, and it’s ongoing, and I think it’s a productive process.”
With the Soto/Bell deal, which brought five highly-regarded prospects (MacKenzie Gore, CJ Abrams, James Wood, Robert Hassell II, and Jarlin Susana) and one big league veteran bat (Luke Voit) into the organization, Rizzo said, they are in a better place than they were before the deadline.
“I think after this trade deadline I think it accelerated our process a little bit,” he said. “We added a lot of talent to our system, and I think you can kind of see the aftermath of where our system was pre- and post-trade deadline, and I think that we’re excited about what’s to come in the future, and I think the blueprint to win in a timely fashion is in place, and we’re excited about it.”