General Manager and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations of the Washington Nationals Mike Rizzo has been promoted by the team. His new title is General Manager and President of Baseball Operations. He has also received a reportedly lengthy extension, worth an unknown amount of money. Rizzo had previously been under club control through 2015 with a pair of options, but the deal’s low salary relative to other MLB GMs had created tension between him and ownership.
Rizzo was the first person hired when the Lerner family assumed ownership of the team from Major League Baseball, poached from the Arizona Diamondbacks to be Assistant GM to Jim Bowden. When Bowden resigned over a bonus-skimming scandal in March 2009, Rizzo was named interim GM and promoted to the full-time position in August. Since then, he has taken the Nats from the worst record in baseball to the best, with the help of two first overall picks, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, and many shrewd trades and signings.
He swapped bench outfielder Ryan Langerhans to the Mariners in 2009 for underperforming OF/1B Michael Morse, who hit .303 with 31 home runs as the Nats’ full-time first baseman in 2011. He traded a bunch of prospects, including RHP A.J. Cole, to the Athletics for LHP Gio Gonzalez, who won 21 games and finished 3rd in the NL Cy Young race in his first season as a Nat this offseason. He later reacquired Cole in exchange for Morse. He signed RF Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126M deal after the 2010 season, and Werth has been among the top offensive right fielders in baseball this year.
His acumen as a player developer and acquirer has been proven time and again in his time with the Nats. Many of the players he has drafted beyond Strasburg and Harper, including 2B/3B Anthony Rendon, closer Drew Storen, 2B Jeff Kobernus, and RHP Taylor Jordan, have debuted in the majors to much success. Others, like RHP Alex Meyer, OF Brian Goodwin, RHP Nate Karns, and Cole, have become widely hailed top prospects.
The extension comes at perhaps the most contentious time of Rizzo’s career, as he takes public criticism from within his organization for the firing of hitting coach Rick Eckstein and demotion of Storen, and the massively disappointing Nats sit four games under .500 at the beginning of August. Regardless of the circumstances, the move should demonstrate a deserved vote of confidence in Rizzo for the amazingly successful team he build, and should allow Rizzo to get on with moves for the Nationals.