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Washington Nationals news & notes: Winter Meetings 2023 - What will the Nats do?

Notes and quotes as the 2023 Winter Meetings get underway...

Talking with reporters after he’d signed his multi-year extension with the Nationals this past summer, Washington’s GM and President of Baseball Ops Mike Rizzo said the potential sale of the ballclub did not factor into his thinking in signing on to stay in the nation’s capital.

Rizzo also said he has had the full support of their ownership group throughout his tenure in D.C., and especially as they’ve gone through the reboot they kicked off at the trade deadline in 2021.

“I’ve never spoken to them about their commitment and if they’re going to sell the team and that type of thing,” he explained.

“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.”

Nationals’ Managing Principal Owner Mark Lerner told MASN’s Dan Kolko late this past season the ownership group was all in on the rebuilding process.

“We are totally in on building this back to where we all expect it to be, and where our fans expect it to be, and we’re not going to stop until we get there,” Lerner said.

Asked how he would approach this offseason, Lerner said, “A lot of this now bounces right back into [Rizzo’s] lap.”

The Nationals increased their win total by 16 games over the past two seasons, though that is not the goal, obviously, but everyone involved seems to think they’re on the brink of their next competitive run in the next year or so. So how will Rizzo and Co. in the front office try to attack roster-building this winter?

“It’s his call how he wants to fill the holes in the lineup,” Lerner added. “And he comes to me when he is ready to come, whether it’s for a player or a free agent or whatever. He knows the game plan he wants to follow and my guess is he will take the same approach like he’s done this year, and last year, where he’s going to fill holes and he is going to say, ‘‘Listen we got to follow the same format that we did in 2011.’

“We took that leap to Jayson [Werth],” who signed as a free agent in 2010-11, and helped the club reach the postseason for the first time in 2012.

“We were ready for it,” Lerner said of the signing. “I don’t know if he’s going to say, ‘We’re ready for it now.’

“My guess is he’ll say, ‘No, give it another year, let’s get some of these young guys here and being productive, then you take the leap.’”

But one thing is clear, Lerner said, the ownership group will give Rizzo what he wants and needs this winter.

Washington Nationals Introduce - Jayson Werth Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“Whatever he desires he knows he has the resources,” Lerner said, “... and he’s always had the resources since the day we took over the team to build a winner.

“I can’t recall in all these years, on one hand that he’s been turned down for something.”

As for what the Nationals are after heading into the Winter Meetings?

A middle of the order bat at one of the corner infield spots or in the outfield? Pitching, and pitching, and pitching, whether in the rotation (a veteran arm not necessarily a future No. 1- type right now?) or bullpen? A left fielder? A left-handed bat?

“Like the 29 other of my peers, we’re looking for pitching, starting pitching and relief pitching,” Rizzo said at the GM Meetings in November, as quoted by Washington Post beat writer Andrew Golden, when asked about the wishlist in Washington this winter.

“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.”

The goal at the GM Meetings (which ended early when a stomach virus affected 10% of the front office workers who were in Arizona), was simple.

“We’re here to set foundations for future deals,” Rizzo told MLB Network host Jon Morosi.

“It’s a communication and relationships business, and we’re here to kind of revive some relationships and set the groundwork for deals that we’ll do later in the winter.”

Is there any substance to the talk of a reunion with Jeimer Candelario? Will the Nationals add depth to their rotation mix? Will Shohei Ohtani sign in D.C.? Sorry. Will Rizzo and Co. make any additions in the next few days or wait for prudent baseball deals to develop in coming weeks? Is this the year a Werth-type deal happens, or is that sort of move a year away as Lerner suggested late this past season.

Colorado Rockies v Washington Nationals Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Rizzo, as quoted by Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, downplayed the idea that this is the year to make that sort of move, not that the means wouldn’t be there if he saw the right move out there:

“Financially, that doesn’t come into play. I think it’s, ‘When are you ready to strike, and what player is that guy?’ ” Rizzo said. “Those are the two questions you have to answer. Is this the right year — meaning is the right guy there who puts you over the top?”

Lerner, back in September, and Rizzo last month, both shared their thoughts on the club’s reboot being ahead of where they were in the process when they rebuilt things in 2009-12, so will they stay the course and see what they have and where they need to address needs before they’re ready to get back to contending in 2025, while seeing what happens with all the young talent they’ve added to the organization since ‘21?

What would you like to see the club accomplish over the next few days?