In announcing his multi-year extension in September, Washington Nationals’ GM and President of Baseball ops Mike Rizzo talked about getting the opportunity to see the reboot the club kicked off at the trade deadline in 2021 through, now that the club is, in his mind, on the cusp of once again being competitive.
“You go through the dog days of the rebuild, and you just hope to get an opportunity to have some of glory that the rebuild brings you,” he explained.
“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.”
Those bumpy roads, as Davey Martinez once said, sometimes lead to beautiful places.
“All the strife and struggles that you go through can’t even be measured to the glory that you have when that 27th out of Game 7 of the World Series goes into the guy’s mitt,” Rizzo said, returning to 2019 in his mind for a moment.
“That’s why it was so important to me to be here to see this through and to hopefully see another succession to be a really competitive team in a really competitive division and to win another ring for the Nationals’ fan base.”
Now that the team is on the cusp, the GM added, they need to take the next step.
“I think the season I’ve seen a lot of improvement from a lot of players, which is important. Especially the young players,” Rizzo told reporters.
“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.”
With those internally-developed pieces in place in the bullpen, the rotation arms the club has assembled, and the young position players like CJ Abrams, Luis García, and Keibert Ruiz continuing to grow and improve, and a next wave of high-end prospects they’ve added in the draft and through trades, the GM in D.C. thinks the club is close.
“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.”
Looking forward to the offseason at that point in September, Rizzo said the club would assess their roster and decide on the next steps in the process of building a contender.
The message was much the same when Rizzo spoke with reporters recently.
“Like the 29 other of my peers, we’re looking for pitching, starting pitching and relief pitching,” Rizzo said, as quoted by Washington Post reporter Andrew Golden at the GM Meetings this month. “You can never have enough of it. We’d like to find a bat to help that group of young hitters. Never can have enough relief pitching or starting pitching.”
There’s a need for additional pitching, bats at both corner infield spots, and possibly in the outfield for the club to fill from internal or external options. What do you expect the Nationals to do this winter? More bargains to fill holes while they continue to assess talent at all levels of the organization? A big signing or two to give the process a kick?