The Nationals’ club option on GM/president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo actually covers both the 2017 and 2018 seasons, and the team has a June 15 deadline to decide whether or not to exercise its two-year option and keep Rizzo in the fold, The Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga reports. Svrluga reported in November that the Nats held options on Rizzo’s services for both 2017 and 2018 (the GM was previously thought to only have a 2017 option), though with the news that both options have to be picked up at once, it creates an interesting new wrinkle in the Nationals’ eventual decision.
It’s fairly unusual to see a two-year option, though as that second Svrluga link illustrates, Nationals upper management tends to approach decisions different than most ownership groups (with no small amount of controversy involved). Still, when Rizzo signed his contract extension in August 2013, all signs pointed to Rizzo remaining atop Washington’s baseball ops pyramid for years to come. It was only a year ago that Rizzo seemed to have as much job security as any executive in baseball — the Nats were coming off two postseason appearances in three years and were seen as World Series favorites for 2015.
Unfortunately for both Rizzo and the Nationals, they finished with just a 83-79 record in a season marred by injuries to key stars, down seasons by regulars and the ugly dugout choking incident between Jonathan Papelbon and Bryce Harper. Manager Matt Williams was fired and replaced by Dusty Baker, though that hiring wasn’t without its own bit of drama since the Nats previously seemed ready to hire Bud Black before he rejected a lowball contract offer.
While Rizzo kept his job for 2016, “his situation can be considered tenuous,” Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post wrote in November. It’s fair to say that Rizzo was already facing pressure heading into the last guaranteed year of his contract, though this deadline set just two and a half months into the season adds a few more degrees to his hot seat. If the Nats get off to a slow start, that could be enough for ownership to decide that a front office shakeup is necessary rather than make another two-year commitment to Rizzo on June 15. It’s also possible, Svrluga opines, that Rizzo and the team could re-negotiate a new contract this spring. Svrluga doubts the Nats would simply let the June 15 deadline pass and allow Rizzo to be a lame duck for the rest of the season, as that would be an awkward situation for all parties.