Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Washington Nationals’ front office went into the offseason with a plan, kicked off at last July 30th’s trade deadline, to reboot the organization and build the next World Series-winning roster two years after the club won the first Fall Classic by a D.C.-based team since 1924.
Baseball’s lockout delayed implementation of the club’s plan for building their 2022 roster, but coming out of the 99-day struggle to agree on a new CBA, Rizzo found a vibrant market with players and their agents looking to find homes for those who didn’t sign contracts before MLB’s talks with the MLBPA fell apart back in December.
“I think the market is kind of as-expected,” Rizzo told reporters on Day 1 of Spring Training in West Palm Beach, FL. “I do notice and sense a kind of a more direct approach, which is kind of my approach all the time, but with the other agents and other teams, I think there’s a lot more directness, and trying to get a deal done sooner rather than later. There’s not a lot of people playing out the market and that type of thing, and we’re kind of exchanging ideas and offers a lot sooner than an ordinary offseason would go.”
He’s not kidding:
Nationals additions since lockout:— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 14, 2022
UTIL Ehire Adrianza
RHR Steve Cishek
DH Nelson Cruz
LHR Sean Doolittle
RHP Aníbal Sánchez (Minor league)
2B César Hernández
3B Maikel Franco (Minor league)
IF Dee Gordon (Minor League)
As The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal notes, all those deals came after the new CBA was ratified late last week, but Rizzo wasn’t just waiting around during the lockout.
He said he spent the three months trying to work on what he could as far as his plan for the organizational reboot.
“It was a little kind of frustrating,” he said, “but it kind of opened things up to kind of really dive into different aspects of the organization and that type of thing. We kept ourselves extremely busy. We had the — when the ball dropped, we had to do that exercise about a thousand times — how we’re going to do it, and we had certain assignments for certain groupings and that type of thing, so we kind of went through a bunch of dry runs, kind of fire drills if you will, throughout the offseason, but we kept ourselves busy doing, obviously, the baseball preparations that we usually do, but we had some extra time to really go in depth with the player development stuff that we brought on, and a lot of the technology that I got to learn about very in-depth.
“It was a very interesting, educationally-beneficial time off for me.”
And those dry runs of their plans to make sure they were ready when the lockout ended, they helped.
“You know, the preparation was great,” Rizzo said as their plans played out in the first few days post-lockout. “When the bell did ring, we — like every other team — hit the phones hard and there were a lot of phone calls going back and forth, and like we usually do, we have our checklist of things we’d like to get done in the offseason, and we’re beginning to chip away at that.”
Relief help? Check. Rotation depth. Check. Big middle-of-the-order bat? Check.
Acknowledging where they are in their reboot after back-to-back disappointing runs in 2020 and 2021, Rizzo said the club was making moves with 2002 and beyond in mind.
“We take this a little bit different than we’ve taken it each year,” he explained. “But we’re trying to make moves to win games, and we know where our landscape goes and what our big picture looks like, but the moves we’re going to make are going to be with winning this year in mind, but also with a bigger picture to getting back to that 10-year-window of being one of the best teams in baseball.”
Given all the time he had to assess the state of the organization this winter, Rizzo was asked if he had a better idea of a timeline for when the club will be in the mix for division titles and the World Series again.
“Six months, four days — I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to put a tangible number on it,” Rizzo sort-of joked. “We’ve been through the process before, and we feel that we have a good blueprint of getting us back to that championship form in the near future, but again, we’re about winning games this year, and we’re going to be quietly plugging away to win each and every game we have and there’s 12 playoff teams and we want to be one of them, so that’s what I’m looking at this year.
“In regards to the championship window, it could start at any time, and we’re making moves towards that end, but we’re still trying to win every baseball game we play.”