Rizzo on All-Star Game, Vasquez, Zimmermann, more

Danny Espinosa still has his beard, and it’s still fierce.

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Mike Rizzo took part in a fan Q&A session here at NatsFest at bit ago, and at one point was asked about the chances of the Nationals and Washington D.C. getting to host an All-Star Game.

Rizzo’s response? “We deserve the damn All-Star game, I’ll tell you that,” he told the fans, who broke out in applause.

The Nationals would have loved to have been selected to host the 2015 All-Star Game, but that went to the Cincinnati Reds and the Great American Ballpark. Now, the Nats will continue discussions with the league office and hope that they’ll be chosen for the 2017 Midsummer Classic.

“Those are conversations that we have at the highest levels, ownership levels,” Rizzo said during a session with reporters. “We’ve expressed interest in having it. I’m sure they’re thinking about us, because this is a great city to have an All-Star Game. I think the city has earned it. I think the franchise deserves it, and I think down the road that this would be a great destination to have one.”

The Nationals have agreed to contracts with six of their seven arbitration-eligible players, but Jordan Zimmermann is still without a contract for the 2013 season. Rizzo and the Nats have reportedly offered Zimmermann $4.6 million, and the righty has countered with a reported $5.8 million.

“We’d like to sort it out before the (arbitration) hearing,” Rizzo said. “We’re still talking and negotiating and unfortunately in arbitration, other teams affect what happens with your case. With Zimmermann’s class of pitchers around him, we’re waiting to see where we’re going to be at with him.”

The Nats would be open to working out a multi-year deal with Zimmermann, but Rizzo said that unless those talks have made serious traction prior to reaching the one-year agreement for this upcoming season, it’s usually easier to begin talks of an extension after the one-year deal is in place.

Rizzo personally spoke to Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard and said that he had discussions with the two relievers about their roles and how the team views them after the signing of closer Rafael Soriano.

“We had constructive conversations about where we’re at, where’s the team and all that stuff,” Rizzo said. “I think they feel good about themselves, and we feel good about where we’re at with them.”

The Nats aren’t expected to make any more major moves before reporting to spring training in a few weeks, as Rizzo said the organization feels the cornerstones of a successful team are in place. That said, Rizzo will continue to look to tinker with the roster if he sees ways to improve.

One name that the Nats have kicked around is veteran righty Javier Vasquez, who is considering coming out of retirement to pitch this season. Rizzo personally scouted Vasquez in Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago, but said that until Vasquez makes a decision on his future, the Nats can’t really start talking about possibly bringing him in.

“There (are) no negotiations,” Rizzo said. “He has to decide if he wants to play in ‘13, and if he makes that decision, the process will begin from there.”

Asked if he feels Vasquez might be open to a minor league deal, Rizzo responded, “Let’s see if he wants to play first.”

Finally, here’s Rizzo’s take on FanFest, which is mobbed with fans donning red shirts, hats and, yes, even face paint.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to walk around the whole place, but it looks beautiful and there’s a lot of excited people here. And I know we’re at capacity. So for the first year to have it be at capacity, it’s pretty cool.

“This was a great fanbase even when we weren’t playing as well. It was a small group, but they were rabid fans and to see how it’s grown and to see us be their team, it’s really refreshing. It’s really a credit to the city.”

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