“I think we’re a little bit ahead of schedule,” GM Mike Rizzo said of the Washington Nationals’ rebuild when asked for a progress report by 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in the first week of this past September.
“I really like where that Double-A club is with a lot of prospects,” Rizzo said, pointing to the Harrisburg Senators’ roster, which featured 2021 1st Round pick draft Brady House (ranked at No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Nationals’ top prospects), 2023 1st Round pick Dylan Crews (No. 1), Robert Hassell III (who is ranked No. 8, and was acquired in the Juan Soto and Josh Bell deal with the Padres in 2022), and James Wood (No. 2, who also came over from San Diego), and more.
“The last three drafts have really impacted us positively as far as our farm system,” Rizzo continued.
“I like the young group of players at the big league level. I think that we’re gonna have an increase of wins from 55 to wherever we end up this year (71), which I think is a positive aspect of the rebuild. And when you look at the six, seven players that are going to be the core group of the team that we already have, along with the impact type of players that we have in the minor leagues that are not far away from the big leagues, I think you can only be happy about the way the rebuild has gone.”
“And since July of ‘21 when we started this rebuild,” he added, “you have to see the light at the end of this tunnel, because I think that we’re ahead of our schedule where we were in the first rebuild in ‘09, ‘10, ‘11.”
[ed. note - “Managing Principal Owner Mark Lerner echoed these thoughts when he spoke to MASN’s Dan Kolko late this past season, telling Kolko he thought the Nationals were in a good place in terms of their rebuild heading into the offseason.
“I think the future is very bright. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Lerner told Kolko:
“I just think over the next few years, there will be really terrific change to get ourselves to another level. You have to also remember one other thing, when you’re comparing us to other organizations who have done this, we’re probably going to do a full turnaround faster than any team that’s ever done it. Most of the teams are 8-9-10 years, and some of them haven’t even turned it around yet.
“We’re only in the second full year of this, and we see a lot of promise. I really believe in the next two years we’ll be back in the playoffs.”
“I really believe the future is bright here for us,” manager Davey Martinez said after signing a multi-year extension in the nation’s capital.
While the sixth-year skipper was happy with the progress in the organization and the effort of his big league club, he said there was a need to instill a message in the minds of all their young players.
“They need to understand that we got better,” Martinez explained. “We progressed a lot, and we got to be ready to go next spring.”
Martinez was happy with the effort from his club, but he said they need to take the next step going forward.
“They fought every day. They didn’t quit. Played hard for 27 outs, and that’s all I can ask from these guys, and they did get better, so I’m excited about this winter, what can happen, and then coming into Spring Training with a lot of these guys, the future guys that we have and the guys that are coming up. It’s going to be a fun winter and I’m looking forward to Spring Training.”
“We know what’s coming at the minor league level and the prospect level,” Rizzo said in his own press conference once he too got a multi-year extension with the club. He pointed to the young pitching (MacKenzie Gore, Josiah Gray, Jake Irvin), the core of position players in the majors already (Luis García, CJ Abrams, Keibert Ruiz, Lane Thomas, and some young-ish prospects who came up), and the older arms in their bullpen they found around the league and turned into effective relievers, and said, “That’s an exciting young team.”
“You put that together with the [Jake] Alus of the world, and then the [James] Woods and the [Brady] Houses and that type of thing, and you can see why there is excitement, not only in our organization, but with the fanbase. Because they see this timeline coming to fruition. They see the end of this rebuild tunnel if you will, and we’ve been through this before, so there’s a timeline and there’s a blueprint to how this thing works out and we hope that this rebuild mirrors the last rebuild and we can get to another decade of dominance in the very near future.”
Then it’s also about supplementing what is already in the organization and adding to it if the evaluators identify areas of need at the big league level or in the system and taking the next step towards contending again.
Will it start this winter? Will the Nats be active in the free agency or trade markets?
“As far as this offseason,” Rizzo said in mid-September, “we’re certainly going to take a deep dive into where our weaknesses are and where we need to get better, where we lack depth both at the big league level and at the minor league level that will feed that position, so I think that we’ll be active like we have been in the past. I don’t know at what level yet that we will interact in it, but suffice it to say we want to improve our team, we’re not satisfied with the jump from last year to this year in victories, and our goal is to win and there’s no time like the present.”