The Nationals have picked up president and general manager Mike Rizzo’s option and will keep him through at least the 2018 season, James Wagner of the Washington Post was among those to report (Twitter link). The team had until June 15 to make a decision on the future of Rizzo, who entered the season in the final year of a deal he signed in 2013.
“We are pleased with the job Mike has done over the past nine years,” managing principal owner Ted Lerner said in a statement, per Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com. “He and the baseball operations team have worked tirelessly to help build this organization into one of Major League Baseball’s elite clubs. We are fortunate to have him.”
Rizzo, 55, joined the Nationals as an assistant general manager in 2006 and eventually took the reins when predecessor Jim Bowden resigned in 2009. In six full seasons with Rizzo at the helm, the Nats have been among Major League Baseball’s most successful organizations, piling up four years of .500-plus ball – including two with 96 or more wins – and a pair of playoff appearances, though the team has fallen short of championship expectations in the past.
As a result of the Nats’ 83-win 2015, Rizzo’s hold on his job was “tenuous,” Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post wrote in November. The 22-13 club is off to an outstanding start this season, though, on the heels of a busy offseason that saw Rizzo fire previous manager Matt Williams, replace him with Dusty Baker, and sign ex-Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy to a three-year, $37.5MM contract, among other moves.
The relatively inexpensive acquisition of Murphy, who has been one of baseball’s best hitters since last season, currently looks like a masterstroke by Rizzo. Murphy is the latest significant piece Rizzo has added to the Nats organization through free agency during his tenure, joining the likes of Max Scherzer and Jayson Werth – both of whom landed far heftier contracts, of course.
Rizzo’s highest-impact pickup came via the draft in 2010, when he selected now-superstar right fielder Bryce Harper with the No. 1 overall pick. Rizzo was also in charge when the Nationals signed right-hander Stephen Strasburg, the top choice in the 2009 draft, to a record contract for a rookie. The Nationals’ hope is that premier prospect Lucas Giolito, who’s the crown jewel of a well-regarded farm system and whom Rizzo chose in the first round of the 2012 draft, will eventually follow in Strasburg’s footsteps and become an ace-caliber major league starter.
With free agency looming at season’s end for Strasburg, Rizzo locked him up to another deal – a seven-year, $175MM accord – earlier this week to ensure that he’ll remain in Washington for the foreseeable future. Now, a few days later, the Nationals have decided to keep their head of baseball operations in the fold for at least two more seasons.