“It’s a difficult decision to make,” Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo explained last winter, in talking about the choice to kick off their reboot of the organization with trades of expiring contracts (and a year-plus of control of Trea Turner) at the 2021 trade deadline.
“But oftentimes the decision is made for you, and this year it was. And we recognized where we were and what work we had in front of us and we decided to begin a building process that will allow us to compete at the highest level for a continuous part of — over the years.
“That’s always our goal.”
Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office dealt Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Jon Lester, Josh Harrison, and Yan Gomes, all seven of whom were on expiring deals, and one year-plus of control of Turner, and received 12 prospects in return, including some who are currently in the major leagues (Josiah Gray, Keibert Ruiz, and Lane Thomas).
The prospects the Nationals received in return in those trades, Rizzo explained, were a mix of young, in some cases major-league ready players, who will hopefully form a core of the next competitive team in the nation’s capital.
“The remnants of this trade deadline, the last trade deadline, the last couple of impactful drafts that we had, will be the core of this next world championship-caliber club,” he said.
“I like the early returns on the players we got,” Rizzo added. “The last two draft classes and this deadline are going to be the core players of the next championship-caliber team here in Washington, and I do think it’s going to be a long-term championship run again when we get where we’re trying to get.”
There figure to be more players on expiring deals dealt before this season’s August 2nd trade deadline, and tonight the Nats get to add to the system in the 2022 MLB Draft.
Rizzo and Co. have the 5th overall pick in the 1st round, and they pick at No. 45 in the 2nd Round. The top pick is the highest for the Nationals since they selected Anthony Rendon 6th overall in 2011, after back-to-back No. 1 overall picks with Stephen Strasburg in 2009, and Bryce Harper in 2010.
“I couldn’t tell you who we were going to take even if I wanted to,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies earlier this month.
“We pick fifth, and we’re going to put our board together and the guy who’s on top of the board at the time we draft, we’re going to take.”
They’ll have to react to what four other teams do, with Baltimore, Arizona, Texas, and then Pittsburgh selecting before them this year.
“When you pick fifth and you’ve got five good candidates, there’s even more than that,” the GM in D.C. explained, “but there’s five good players up there, and when you pick this high, it’s different than in the past when we were picking 20-30, it’s — you’re seeing these guys a lot, you’re really getting upper echelon tools, make-up, competitiveness, and that type of thing, and it’s something that we’re really excited about going into this thing. Kind of following up last year’s draft with this year’s draft, we thought we did a great job last year. You can see those guys, most of those guys, at [Single-A] Fredericksburg from last year’s draft playing at a very, very young age, and having success, and we’re looking to match that, and even exceed that this year in the draft.”
Four players will get picked, then the Nationals will take the top player on their draft board, regardless of position or organizational needs right now.
“Best player in the draft is always our philosophy, in the draft, and it will continue to be,” Rizzo explained. “The best player available is the guy that we’re going to take, and we’ll figure out positionally when we get it.”
“As many impactful players as you can get, that’s what we’re looking for, and by the time — this is different in football and basketball, obviously, because there is a minor league learning curve here, and at the end of the day, if you can play we figure out where to play you and impact the team the greatest.”
The Athletic’s Keith Law matched the Nationals up with Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada in his 4th Mock Draft, writing it’s a decision for Washington on whether they go, “...the safe route, which would be Parada, one of the two best college players in the class,” or, “ take a high-upside high schooler.”
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis both have the Nationals taking one of those “high-upside” high schoolers in their own latest mocks: Elijah Green, 18, an outfielder out of the IMG Academy in Florida, matching Texas up with Parada at No. 3 in Mayo’s and at No. 9 to Chicago’s Cubs in Callis’s latest.
What will the Nationals do with their top two picks tonight? The first two rounds of the draft start at 7:00 PM ET tonight, and the Nats plan to make their top picks available to reporters via Zoom. Kris Kline (VP, Assistant GM of Scouting Operations) and Mark Baca (Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting) will speak to reporters once the first two rounds are over, so check back for updates. It’s Draft Day! Mike Rizzo’s Super Bowl. Who will be the two newest members of the organization? We find out tonight...