Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo appeared on today’s Baseball Tonight Podcast with Buster Olney (audio link) to discuss an number of topics, ranging from Ryan Zimmerman’s return to prominence in the National League to his team’s plans at the trade deadline to his own personal philosophies on making trades (Rizzo joins the show at roughly the 26-minute mark, though the entire podcast is a good listen).
The Nationals, of course, lost standout young shortstop Trea Turner for the foreseeable future last week when the 23-year-old suffered a nondisplaced fracture in his right wrist after being hit by a pitch. However, while there’s been some speculation about the Nats pursuing a trade for a shortstop (including some from myself here on MLBTR), Rizzo threw cold water on that notion.
“I don’t think so,” he said when asked by Olney if the Nationals would pursue shortstop help outside the organization. “Right now, we like the leadership, and we like the veteran presence that Stephen Drew gives us. He’s a very competent, steady defensive shortstop. … We know we have to protect his legs. He’s got the ankle issue that he’s had for a couple years now. We think with the combination, the mixing and matching that Dusty [Baker] will do with Stephen Drew and with [Wilmer] Difo, I think that we can weather the storm until Trea gets back.”
Of course, it wouldn’t exactly behoove Rizzo to broadcast that his team is actively seeking shortstop assistance, so perhaps he’s a bit more open then he let on. A number of shortstops (or at least shortstop-capable players) figure to be available, including Zack Cozart, Jed Lowrie and Eduardo Nunez.
Then again, Rizzo also had no reservations in acknowledging that he not only plans to seek bullpen help but has already actively been doing so. While the Washington GM characterized his current status as “testing the market,” he added that he’s already spoken to a number of GMs around the league to see where they’re at in the process.
“It’s no secret that we’re going to be looking for upgrades in the bullpen,” Rizzo stated. “With that said, people aren’t going to want to help us out of the goodness of their hearts. We’re going to have to see what deal makes sense for us in the long-term and short-term, and see if we can do our part, do my part, to improve this bullpen.”
Whether that means acquiring a top-end closer or simply bolstering the ’pen with one or more quality setup types remains to be seen and is “going to be a fluid decision,” as Rizzo characterized the matter. “The good thing is that we have a good team and we know what our flaws are,” he added. “They’re pretty clear. We’re going to have a strategy to see if we can improve it.”
As for a timeline of a move, Rizzo expressed an openness to getting something done in the near future but also suggested that other clubs may not be on that timeline just yet.
“I’ve always been willing to move,” he stated. “When I see a deal that I like, that works for us, I’m willing to make a move. I don’t need a lot of conversations or meetings with our staff. I’m constantly in conversations with my people. … I hate wasting other GMs’ time with deals that never come to fruition. For every deal you do, there’s 20 deals that you put just as much work into and don’t get done. To me, the most frustrating thing is if we were to talk about a trade, and I’m serious about the trade, and then it falls through and all this work is done, then that’s bad business for both guys.”
Olney suggested to Rizzo, however, that a number of people to whom he’s spoken are anticipating a late-moving trade market in 2017 due to the extreme level of parity in the American League. The Rays currently hold the second Wild Card spot in the AL, for instance, but there are six teams within two games of staking that claim. Rizzo agreed with the sentiment, suggesting that even though some contenders may be willing to move right now, other teams are going to “take most of that month of July to assess where [they’re] at and what [their] ownership wants to do.”
The entire interview with Rizzo spans about 10 minutes and includes insight into his strategies and tactics when negotiating with other clubs as well as his own assessment of the 2017 Nationals. It’s well worth checking out for Nats fans but also anyone who closely follows trades in baseball, as Rizzo’s thoughts on doing business with other clubs offer interesting perspective into the life of a GM this time of year.