Welcome to this week’s edition of National Matters with Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.
This week, Rizzo took a few of your questions and weighed in with his thoughts on the international free agent signing period, Ian Desmond, Matt Capps and the team’s biggest needs for 2011. Read on to see the GM’s answers:
Wally: Mike, With the international free agent signing period opening on July 2, should we expect to see the Nats as active players? If not, at what point can we expect the Nats to become players in this important player acquisition segment of the market?
Mike Rizzo: Dear Wally, In 2010 we have been extremely active in our international marketing efforts and are not waiting for the July 2 deadline. The aggressive efforts we have undertaken internationally are best reflected by several examples. We established a new training academy in the Dominican Republic; hired a new and larger international staff, both in scouting and player development and expanding into countries such as Venezuela, Curacao, Columbia and Mexico; and, in 2010, we signed 31 international players. You can expect the Washington Nationals to be very active at the deadline on July 2.
Jim Gibson: Mike, Why are we not bringing up someone to replace Desmond, who can’t field or hit. Too many errors. He is just not ready. There has to be someone in lower leagues who would love a chance.
Mike Rizzo: Dear Jim, I thoroughly disagree with your assessment that Ian cannot hit or field. Ian Desmond is one of the brightest young shortstop prospects in the major leagues today, as exemplified by his major league ranking of second in UZR (range factor). In addition, with the exception of Troy Tulowitzki, Ian has successfully gotten more ground balls on defense than any shortstop in the majors, and his 34 RBIs ranks fourth on the Nationals team. Ian is one of the highest ranked rookie players for 2010.
Bill M: Mike, What do you believe the biggest needs for 2011 are?
Mike Rizzo: Dear Bill, I believe the front of the rotation in starting pitching is always the priority acquisition anytime possible. We are no different than most other major league clubs when I say that we can never have enough good starting pitchers.
Maddy: Mike, With Matt Capps finishing up his initial one year deal, do you plan on trying to re-sign him? Also, what role do you see for Storen next year, and do you think we will see him further along in games this year?
Mike Rizzo: Dear Maddy, Matt Capps, who is currently major league baseball’s saves leader, is having an All-Star type season. We control his rights through, at a minimum, 2011. Matt has been the key acquisition for anchoring one of the better bullpens in the major leagues. Regarding Drew Storen, I see Drew as one of the brightest young relief pitchers in the major leagues today. His role will be dictated by the make-up of the bullpen, but his talent is clearly his ticket to become our ninth inning closer in the near future.