Washington Nationals executive Mike Rizzo is entering the final year of his contract. The Nats must make re-signing him a priority.
However, the Nats have another contract ending in 2018 that nobody talks about; that of Mike Rizzo. Rizzo is currently serving as the Nats’ general manager and president of baseball operations, and is one of the best executives in the league.
Rizzo worked as a scout for years, eventually working his way up to becoming the director of scouting for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2000. Then, he joined the Nats as an assistant general manager in 2007 and was promoted to general manager in 2009.
While working as the Nats’ general manager, Rizzo has done a phenomenal job in a difficult situation. He has masterfully pulled off both large-scale and smaller trades, signed free agents, and built an outstanding pipeline in the minor leagues.
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A few of Rizzo’s best trades include trading for Tanner Roark in 2010, trading for Gio Gonzalez in 2011, trading for Trea Turner and Joe Ross in 2015, and trading for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson in 2017. While these are some of the most notable trades Rizzo has pulled off, there are countless others as well.
Rizzo has also made several free agent signings that have worked out tremendously. A couple big signings that are still with the team include Max Scherzer and Daniel Murphy.
While trades and free agent signings are important, drafting and developing players is a crucial aspect of a successful organization. Some of the most notable players that Rizzo has drafted are Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, and Anthony Rendon. In those three, the Nats have two MVP-caliber stars and an elite starting pitcher.
In addition to producing a solid major league product, Rizzo has built a terrific pipeline. We saw this pipeline put to the test in 2017, as the Nats suffered a myriad of injuries, and they passed with flying colors. Some of the Nats’ prospects who made an impact in 2017 include Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, Victor Robles, Erick Fedde, and Adrian Sanchez.
If Rizzo had not built such a strong pipeline, all of the injuries may have sunk the Nats in 2017. Instead, they won 97 games and won the National League East by 20 games.
Rizzo also has some difficult circumstances that hinder him at times. The Nats and O’s have an ongoing TV contract dispute, which has limited the Nats’ funds.
The Lerner family, the Nats’ ownership group, has also overruled Rizzo at times. Between a shortage of funds and an intrusive ownership group, Rizzo has one of the most difficult jobs in the league.
While the Nats have not yet advanced past the National League Division Series, that is no fault of Rizzo’s. He has consistently put the team in a position to compete, and for the most part, they have. Harper, Murphy, and Gonzalez will get all of the attention in 2018, but we need to focus on retaining Rizzo as well.
The Nats have a history of mismanaging managers’ contracts, which has hurt them to an extent. They must learn from these mistakes, and not make the same mistakes with Rizzo.