The Nationals are entering the offseason with “an eye on 2015 and also beyond,” club president and GM Mike Rizzo said today from the GM Meetings in Phoenix. As it looks to build off of an NL East-winning 2014, the club will benefit from a measure of financial flexibility.
Last year’s Opening Day payroll evidently does not set a ceiling for the team’s spending, according to Rizzo. Asked where the club stood financially with a slate of guarantees and likely arbitration commitments that already push beyond last year’s starting salary point, the Nats’ head baseball decisionmaker told MLBTR: “There’s nothing off the table, there’s no restrictions. We’re going to make good, prudent baseball moves … regardless of payroll.”
At the start of last year, club ownership indicated that the $136MM+ budget was above where the organization wanted to be. But Rizzo said that the Nationals “have the flexibility to put the best club on the field.”
Rizzo also preached a balance between present and future in assessing the possibility of trading from the current roster. Though he rejected last night’s rumors that the Nats and Cubs were in talks on Jordan Zimmermann, he did say that the team is always willing to listen in an effort to improve.
The team does “not necessarily have to have a major league return on one of [the] 5+ [service-time] guys,” Rizzo said, explaining that he would be looking for “the greatest impact that you can make with the players you trade, especially when you don’t have to trade them.” In terms of value maximization, Rizzo also emphasized the fact that several of the Nationals’ 5+ players would likely be qualifying offer candidates next year.
Of course, players like Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Doug Fister, and (to a much lesser extent, given the team’s rising younger players) Denard Span all figure as extension candidates. I asked Rizzo about the equally impressive group of players coming behind those who are nearing free agency. The team has “a long-term outlook and a long-term plan,” said Rizzo. “We’ve definitely thought about who and how and what players we should look into extending and we certainly have our plans in place to do what we need to do to protect the longevity and success of the franchise.”