With Mike Rizzo in charge, anything can happen


Apr 21, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo on the field before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit:

Brad Mills


General manager Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals entered this offseason with relatively few things on their todo list.

The Nationals were coming off a great season in which they won their second NL East title in three years. Although the team failed to live up to expectations in the playoffs, it still had one of the deepest 25-man rosters in the game last year and most of that roster will be back in 2015.

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The Nationals’ only true need this offseason was to bring in a second baseman to replace Asdrubal Cabrera, who recently signed with the Rays. But even if Rizzo is unable to bring in a second baseman, the Nationals would probably still have what it takes to get to October with a combination of Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen and Dan Uggla at second.

While the Nationals don’t have any pressing needs, there has been plenty of buzz surrounding the team this winter because Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are all set to become free agents after 2015 and the Nationals could be looking to trade any (or all) of them this offseason.

A couple of months ago, I thought the Nationals would keep all three – knowing that they would probably lose at least two of them to free agency next winter – with the expectation that keeping the team’s core together would give the team an “all-in” edge in 2015. Now, with the offseason at its mid-way point, I would be shocked if the Nationals didn’t trade at least one of these players before Opening Day. Why? Because with Rizzo in charge, anything can happen.

According to a report from Fox Sports’s Ken Rosenthal earlier this week, the Nationals nearly traded Desmond to the Mets in a three-team deal that would’ve been the blockbuster of the winter. The reported deal, which also included the Rays, would’ve netted Washington the dynamic double play duo of Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist.

While the deal fell through, it had nothing to do with the Nationals. According to Rosenthal, the reason the deal died was the Mets’ unwillingness to part ways with some of their top prospects. Had this not been a problem, as far as the Nationals were concerned, this would have been a done deal – and it would’ve been a big one.

Desmond, a player who many consider to be one of the best shortstops in baseball, would’ve made the Mets instant playoff contenders. The Nationals, who already have one of the deepest rosters in baseball, would’ve established themselves as true World Series favorites, however deceptive that label may be. Zobrist would’ve given the Nationals a much better option at second base than what they already have, and Escobar would’ve provided a bridge at short for superstar prospect Trea Turner, who won’t be ready to make an impact at the big league level for at least a few years.

The trade, had it worked out, would’ve been one of the best deals the Nationals have made in recent years. But perhaps the most impressive aspect of the attempted deal was Rizzo’s willingness to part ways with Desmond, who is the one player that I always believed the Nationals would sign to a long-term deal.

Ever since Rizzo became general manager in 2009, he’s made it no secret that he’s always looking towards the future and never makes a decision without thinking of the consequences it’ll have on the team’s longterm success. By coming within a hair of trading Desmond, Rizzo showed that he has a plan and that he’s willing to be aggressive to accomplish it.

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Of course, the Nationals may very well resign Desmond, along with Zimmermann and Fister, later this winter. Or, more likely, they’ll trade at least one of them and try their luck with the others next offseason. Personally, I still think and hope that the Nationals will extend Desmond at some point this winter.

But the great thing about Rizzo is that he’s not dead-set on any of these options. He won’t put all his chips on a World Series trophy in 2015, but he won’t give up on 2015 either. He’s thinking of the present, while also keeping an eye on the future. Rizzo is doing all the things that a great general manager does, and, more importantly, he’s shown that he’s not afraid to make a big move or trade away his team’s best player if it’s better for them in the short and long term.

As we learned from the attempted deal earlier this week, Rizzo is always thinking 10 steps ahead of everyone else and there’s no way to know what he’s planning to do until he does it. One thing’s for certain, he knows what he’s doing and the Nationals’ future, both 2015 and beyond, is in good hands. For if there’s one thing that we’ve learned over the last six years, it’s that in Rizzo we trust.