Rizzo named Executive of the Year (plus some 40-man discussion)

General manager Mike Rizzo’s Nationals made the playoffs for the first time in team history, posting the best record in the majors in the process.

His team’s skipper won Manager of the Year. His teenage center fielder won Rookie of the Year. He had four players make the All-Star team, had three win Silver Sluggers and one win a Gold Glove.

Now Rizzo has gotten some national recognition himself.

Rizzo has been named Executive of the Year by the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The Nationals’ general manager will receive the award at a ceremony on Jan. 24 in Boston.

Rizzo had a hand in acquiring 21 of the 25 players on the Nationals’ National League Division Series roster and helped the Nats improve from a 59-win team in 2009 to a 98-win squad in 2012. Prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade last offseason, the Nationals’ minor league system was named the best in baseball by the 2012 Prospect Handbook, a major change from 2007, when the Nats’ system ranked last in the majors.

Congratulations to Rizzo on a pretty impressive honor.

With the Winter Meetings now less than two weeks away, the hot stove is starting to get a little bit warmer.

Trade discussions will pick up in the coming days and weeks, free agents will start to get an even clearer picture of what teams are interested and where their market value stands and teams will begin putting their offseason plans into action.

By 11:59 p.m. tonight, the Nationals, as well as all other 29 teams, will have to set their 40-man rosters in preparation for the Rule 5 draft. Between midnight and the Rule 5 draft, which will be held on the final day of the Winter Meetings, on Dec. 6, a team may add major league free agents to its 40-man roster but may not add a player from its minor league reserve lists.

Only teams with fewer than 40 players on their rosters may take part in the 40-man draft. If they choose to select a player from another team, they must pay the player’s original club $50,000 and then keep that player on their 25-man active roster for the entirety of the next season. If that player does not stay on the active roster all season, he must be placed on waivers, and if he clears, he must be offered back to the original team for $25,000.

Currently, the Nationals have 36 players on their 40-man roster. If they want to ensure that certain minor leaguers not already on the 40-man are protected, they must be added to the roster by tonight’s deadline.

A few guys who could be candidates to be added to the 40-man later today are outfielder Destin Hood, infielder Jeff Kobernus, starters Danny Rosenbaum, Nathan Karns and Jeff Mandel, and reliever Rob Wort.

Obviously, the Nats can’t protect everyone, and because of the depth of their minor league system, they have some players who could be attractive to other teams in the Rule 5 draft.

All of the guys listed above probably are a bit away from the majors if their development continues at its current pace, but there are developing teams out there who will look to snatch up quality unprotected talent and stash players away on the active roster for a season.

That’s why today’s decisions could be important. The Nats will have to prioritize and protect the players they feel are most valuable and most likely to get selected in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

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