Oct 01, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo on the field before the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Rizzo and Johnson Leave Winter Meeting Early


Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson left the baseball winter meetings a day and a half before the scheduled end of the meet.

Having traded for Denard Span just before the beginning of the winter meetings, and signed starting pitcher Dan Haren at the meeting, filling the two biggest needs Nats management had identified for next year, Rizzo and Johnson saw no need to hang around. Left handed bullpen help will probably come through free agent signings, and the Nats first base situation was not going to sort itself out in the next a day and a half. Having nothing left to accomplish, Rizzo and Johnson departed Nashville before the official end of the meetings.

Their early departure means that the Nats are not going to participate in the Rule 5 draft this year, which occurs at the very end of the winter meeting. Rizzo apparently felt no need to try to get any sort of roster help for this year from the crop of Rule 5 draftees available. This move means that the Nats do not have to take players who may not be good enough to make the team, but have to remain on the 40 man roster this year. This hopefully will give the Nats more flexibility this year for roster moves without having to release someone on the 40 man or figure out who is going on the DL to make the necessary room.

How different this year’s winter meeting was from those in years past is in the relaxed atmosphere surrounding the Nats management in Nashville. For once, the Nats were not a bad team desperate to try to fill holes in their lineup, or try to contend for an ace pitcher who had no interest in signing with the Nats who were only going to dwell in the bottom of the division. Anyone remember how many times Nats management were chasing players, making offers, only to be outbid by other teams or shunned by players? That did not happen this year.

There is no way the Nats could have just skipped the Rule 5 draft before this year. The Nats needed to try to catch lightning in a bottle by scooping up an overlooked gem some other team had discarded or take on a player who needed more development. The problem with Rule 5 players is that they have to be kept on your 40 man roster or you lose them. The Nats non-participation in the Rule 5 draft says two things. One is that there is not a whole lot of available room on the 40 man roster to be filling up spots with guys who may not be ready to play now. The other is that this roster is going to be tough for anyone from the minor leagues to crack.

Rizzo went to the meetings, like any good shopper, with a list of needs in mind and finished buying early. He gets to get out of the mall parking lot before everyone else and beat the traffic home. Davey can squeeze in an extra day of golf. The Nats stove is cooling off.

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