The Washington Nationals and Mike Rizzo are talking extension. Paving the way for the biggest off-season in team history, the next one.
The normally tight-lipped Rizzo talked about his desire to stay past this year and preliminary conversations with principal owner Ted Lerner recently.
At spring training media day, Rizzo told The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo and others:
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“I’ve had a couple conversations with ownership about my contract. I’ve been here for 12 years. With the trust that we’ve developed over the years, I feel confident that we should get something done.”
Rizzo’s resume with Washington speaks for itself. Since becoming the general manager in 2009, the team has won four National League East titles over the last seven years. Last season, he stabilized his injured bench by trading for outfielder Howie Kendrick and swung a pair of deals to solidify the bullpen grabbing Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle.
Rizzo has a solid reputation for shrewd deal making and extreme creativity in contract construction. With the advice and financial consent of the Lerner family, he built the top pay roll in the division while signing Max Scherzer in free agency, extending Stephen Strasburg before hitting the open market and quiet deals with Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon.
Unlike last year’s lingering decision whether to extend former manager Dusty Baker, keeping Rizzo in the fold is a no-brainer. Unless there are hidden tensions between ownership and baseball operations, both sides work well together in public. The team is poised to contend now and tomorrow.
Under his current contract, Rizzo makes $2.5 million a year. As Castillo reports, the Chicago Cubs pay Theo Epstein $8 million to run their baseball operations. Although Rizzo does not have Epstein’s World Series reputation, he is a top-level executive due a raise.
As negotiations get serious with Harper, Rizzo’s good relationship with both the player and agent Scott Boras is a huge factor in what happens next. Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Murphy are also potential free agents after the season.
Rizzo and the Nats ability to change their approach on data analysis has come over the last couple years and led to the hiring of manager Dave Martinez. Advanced statistics, and how important they are to roster construction, plays a major role within the front office.
The Nats are a conservative franchise. Yes, they have run through their fair share of managers. But, trades and free agent signings are not done on impulse. Rizzo enjoys out thinking his peers and his track record shows a higher rate of success than busts.
Expect a deal to happen soon that is quiet. Getting ready for 2019 begins before the 2018 season gets underway. Knowing who has the job is crucial to maintaining Washington’s progress.