Davey Martinez got his new multi-year extension done first, as was the plan, as GM Mike Rizzo explained it. But the sixth-year skipper in the nation’s capital was thrilled with the news Rizzo got his own deal a few weeks later, meaning they would get to see the reboot they kicked off in 2021 through.
“I got a great relationship with Mike,” the manager told reporters.
“I’m really happy they got [Rizzo’s extension] done ... and we get to work together for many more years and build something again. We won a championship together and we get to try to do it again here and do it again fairly quickly.”
“You go through the dog days of the rebuild,” Rizzo said in the press conference announcing his extension, “… and you just hope to get an opportunity to have some of the glory that the rebuild brings you. That kind of was my thought process. It’s never fun to rebuild. No general manager or field manager loves the word ‘rebuild’ because rebuild usually means you’re losing a lot of games for a significant amount of years.
“This will be my second rebuild, so we’ve gone through our share of losing, but it’s all worth it for that 8-10 year run of excellence and competitiveness and playing competitive games at the end of the season.”
Managing Principal Owner Mark Lerner last month praised the work Rizzo and Co., (in what’s left of the front office after some significant changes already this offseason), have done to move the rebuild or reboot or whatever forward, in an interview with MASN’s Dan Kolko.
“I think the future is very bright. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Lerner told the MASN host. “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.”
Rizzo said in announcing his extension that the ownership group has been fully committed to the process and the possibility they could still sell the team during his now-extended tenure has not been a factor in what the club has done in the last two-plus years of the reboot.
“I’ve never spoken to them about their commitment and if they’re going to sell the team and that type of thing,” the GM said.
“I’ve never seen the Lerner family and ownership more involved and more focused and more into this thing than I’ve seen this year and the last couple of years.
“Believe me when reports come out that they’ve got one foot in and one foot out, that’s not the people I’m dealing with on a daily basis.
“These guys are into it. They’re into every step of this rebuild. They’re looking forward to coming out the other end and to start winning some games and start being a contender in this league and to put up some championship banners again. I see no evidence whatsoever of this [ownership group] and particularly Mark Lerner being half-in and half-out. They’re all in, they want to win, and I have no thought process of them wanting to get rid of the team and sell it.”
Asked late this season to assess the state of the organization at this point in the process, Rizzo had some thoughts which he shared … at length.
“I think the season I’ve seen a lot of improvement from a lot of players, which is important. Especially the young players,” Rizzo began.
“The important thing to me is to take the next step. I think you’ve seen the next step that some of young pitchers have taken: [MacKenzie] Gore, [Josiah] Gray, [Jake] Irvin, those guys at the big league level have taken the next step. You’ve got relief pitchers in the bullpen that have taken the next step. We’ve more or less developed the back end of the bullpen really from scratch.
“You talk about [Kyle] Finnegan, the way he was obtained, and [Hunter] Harvey, the way he was obtained. [Jordan] Weems, the way he was obtained.
“Those players were developed here at the big league level by our coaches, so we’re proud of that. We’re proud of the young position players that we’ve amassed at the big league level.
“We know what’s coming at the minor league level and the prospect level, but when you see the improvement of [Keibert] Ruiz and [CJ] Abrams and Lane Thomas and then infuse some young prospects with [Jacob] Young, and we’re seeing what a 25year-old [Carter] Kieboom is going to do, and now Luis García is back in the big leagues. 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.”
Asked for his short- and long-term goals, Rizzo said in late September he wanted the club to continue to fight and make progress down the stretch, and then he discussed his mid-range and ultimate goals.
“The mid-goal is to continue this rebuild process in a positive way.” he explained.
“To have our good young players take the next step in their progression, be it if it’s a winter league or an Arizona Fall League, or if it’s coming to Spring Training, and they just continue the success rate that we’ve had in our minor league system with these elite prospects.
“We’ve gone from a minor league system that had a lot of minor league players at the big league level, but as far as prospects and depth at the minor league level, [it] was short because we were in a competitive major league balance for about 10 years. So, we utilized a lot of our prospect capital to continue to win at the big league level.
“We’ve replenished that. We think that we have one of the better, deeper, more impactful [minor league] systems in the game, which we will use at our big league level in the near future to help us get back to a championship-caliber club.”
The next step in the process? Is it promoting the major league-ready, next-gen Nationals to see what they can do at the big league level before seriously entertaining signing big-name free agents or making trades?
Will the Nationals now supplement their in-house talent with free agent signings in areas of need to speed the process along? Is it going to happen this winter? Next winter?
“I think [there are] two parts of that question,” Rizzo said, making a distinction between the continued development of prospects and moves to address major league needs. “The first part is — no player will get here before his time as they say in the commercials. Everyone has their own developmental timeline. We bring players up when we believe they’re ready to impact us at the big league level, no matter if they’re 18 or 19 like we’ve done in the past or if they’re 27.
“We will develop players at their own pace and we’ll get them to the big leagues when we think they need to be at the big leagues, and they’ll help us, regardless of what their age is.
“As far as this offseason, 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.”