The Nationals were one of baseball’s most active teams leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, acquiring two players from the Minnesota Twins for closer Matt Capps and two more from the Texas Rangers for infielder Cristian Guzman, as well as fielding numerous offers for first baseman Adam Dunn and left fielder Josh Willingham.
Rizzo caught up with MASNSports.com Nationals beat writer Ben Goessling on Sunday to discuss how the month went in Washington.
Ben Goessling: What’s your general thought on how the month went and how you guys came out of it? How are you feeling about how things worked out?
Mike Rizzo: We feel good about it. The end result, we feel good about. We lost a terrific guy and a good relief pitcher in Matt Capps, but we think we made future gains in (Wilson) Ramos. Ramos, we believe, is an everyday catcher in the very near future, as soon as today, if we needed him to come up today. So we think we put a (player in) in a key position and a key premium spot that’s going to help us for many years to come. We made some smaller moves with (Cristian) Guzman. To move him, it gives Alberto Gonzalez and (Adam) Kennedy more playing time, and it allows us to add to our inventory of starting pitchers. These guys are no slouches, either. Both of these guys (Ryan Tatusko and Tanner Roark) are good pitchers at a level where you could see them in the majors in the near distant future. We’re always trying to upgrade our inventory of pitching, so we like that deal. And they often say, some of the best deals you make are the ones you don’t make. We weren’t looking to trade Adam (Dunn), and we didn’t find the value for him, so we just kept him. We’re looking for him to continue his fine play throughout the rest of the season.
BG: With the two guys you got for Guzman - they both project as starters, I assume?
Mike Rizzo: Yeah. They’re both Double-A starters with great track records. They’re having terrific seasons, and they both have stuff. They’re both stuff guys that have a chance to advance. Tatusko throws 90 to 94. He’ll pitch at 92-93, but he’s got the really good curveball and good command of his pitches. Roark is more of an 89 to 92 guy, but he’s a four-pitch mix guy with control.
BG: With the Capps trade, I know you had talked all month about keeping the price high. Does that trade validate that, in a way, that you got a prospect like Ramos?Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
Mike Rizzo: I don’t think it validates the thought process behind it. That was just our philosophy going in. Matt Capps was a controllable guy for us. He was an All-Star closer. It doesn’t make sense to sell him cheap. He’s a terrific closer. He’s going to impact the Twins very, very positively. They get to keep him next year. You can’t sell an All-Star closer with 26 saves short, especially when there’s no reason to move him because you still control him next year. Your assets like Capps and Willingham and Dunn, you ask a certain price. With players like Guzman, it’s obviously not as high. So it’s a case-by-case issue. A lot of times, the impact of the player has a lot to do with it. Oftentimes, the amount of control you have on the player has to do with it, and what plans are beyond 2010.
BG: So with Capps, who was going to be arbitration-eligible after this year and obviously due a raise, was that a consideration at all?
Mike Rizzo: No. The tough part to trade him was that we had him for another year. All-Star closers are going to make what All-Star closers make. He would have made that in arbitration, and we would have had a guy we could count on in the ninth inning. The whole trade came down to, if (Ramos’) name was not bandied into the deal, the deal would not have been done.
BG: There was a lot of talk from various places about you guys driving hard bargains and people being frustrated or feeling like it was difficult to deal with you guys. How do you react to that?
Mike Rizzo: I don’t understand the concept of, they’re frustrated with me. They knew exactly what we were asking for. The conversations were oftentimes short, because they knew what we were asking for. They didn’t waver one bit throughout the process. With several teams, we asked for the same player throughout this whole process, and they kept throwing different players at us, and we kept saying no. If them being told ‘no’ frustrates them, so be it.
BG: You said the whole month it was going to be painful to get Dunn or Willingham. It was fairly clear to (the media) and probably to everybody else, too, I would imagine.
Mike Rizzo: I don’t understand where the frustration comes from; I guess it’s from not getting a player that you really wanted. But there was a way to get the player if you really, really wanted him. And there was no ambiguity about what the player was. The teams knew exactly what they had to do. If they give us this player, we make the trade. Without this player, there was no trade to be made. And giving us three or four names instead of the name we want wasn’t going to work. We weren’t going to make a quantity deal. We were going to make the deal we felt we had to make to get equal or greater value back.
BG: You kind of stressed that point (with the media on Saturday), too, about not just making quantity deals and getting prospects for the future. How important was it, if you were going to trade these guys, to make a deal that helps this team now, versus three or four years down the road?Ã¢â‚¬Â¨
Mike Rizzo: The deal didn’t have to help us in 2010. It didn’t have to help us the day after we traded for him. It wasn’t like we were acquiring a Lance Berkman, where he comes in and goes right into the middle of the lineup. If there was a good deal to be made that would have helped us in September, 2011, or beyond, we would have considered it. It didn’t have to be immediate, immediate impact, but it had to be an impactful player. Because these players we’re talking about, Capps, Dunn, WIllingham, they impact our club greatly, and we weren’t going to take a step backwards in that. We had to get equal, or even greater, value.
BG: As a GM, is July fun for you? I know your background is in scouting and development, but where does this one rank in terms of enjoyment?
Mike Rizzo: It’s fun. Whenever you sit in a war room or a draft room with all your scouts around you, and you’re grinding out players, and you’re evaluating and breaking down tools - ‘How does this player fit in our future? What’s the best fit in 2010, ‘11, ‘12,’ - those strategic moments, those long-term looks, making trades is a fun thing. This is kind of fantasy baseball in the real world. It’s the real people and the real names and the real results from the trades. It ranks right up there with the other evaluation deadline type of things - the Amateur Draft, the trade deadline and the signing deadline. There are different mileposts throughout the year, and I enjoy all of them.