Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo held a conference call with reporters this afternoon, during which he said the team will have an announcement on its 2012 manager shortly after the World Series. Rizzo gave a handful of other updates on Nationals news, as well. Here are the highlights:
* Rizzo said the Nationals are “in communication” with Chien-Ming Wang’s representatives at Octagon Sports, and though the two sides aren’t close on a deal yet, they have a “mutual interest” in the right-hander returning to Washington. Wang will pitch in Taiwan in the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series next week, but because he is a free agent, Rizzo said the Nationals won’t have any control over his workload. But Rizzo said Wang’s agent, Alan Nero, has discussed Wang’s pitching parameters with the team’s coaching staff.
* After traveling to Viera for the instructional league season, Rizzo said he toured spring training sites in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Nationals could move their spring operation in the future. There’s been plenty of talk about the team taking over the Red Sox’s old facility at City of Palms Park, but it’s possible that the team could look at a new facility in Fort Myers, as well. Rizzo said he would prefer to keep spring training in Florida, and regardless of the team’s progress with other sites, the Nationals will be in Viera this spring.
* The Nationals have “general parameters” of how much Stephen Strasburg will pitch in 2012, Rizzo said, though he wouldn’t share any specifics. Strasburg, who returned from Tommy John surgery to make five starts in September, is expected to be the team’s top starting pitcher in 2012.
* Adam LaRoche started a throwing program last week, and the first baseman, who is returning from shoulder surgery, is expected to be 100 percent at spring training, Rizzo said.
* Anthony Rendon, the team’s top pick in the 2011 draft, is also going through a throwing program to strengthen his shoulder, and Rizzo hopes the third baseman will also be 100 percent for spring training.
* The Nationals have not spoken to Ivan Rodriguez or Livan Hernandez since early in the offseason, Rizzo said. Once the coaching staff is set, the team will decide if it wants to approach either veteran about returning in 2012.
* Rizzo would not discuss the team’s payroll projections for 2012, but it’s safe to assume the team will be aggressive this winter. One thing that will factor into their free agent decisions, though, is their first-round pick: the Nationals are slated to draft 16th overall, which means they have an unprotected first-round pick for the first time since coming to Washington. If the team signs a Type A free agent, it would lose the highest unprotected pick in the draft if that player’s old team has offered him arbitration. “It does have an impact, because we lose the 16th player in the draft, and that’s important,” Rizzo said. “It will be part of our decision process, and it does have an impact on us.”
* The Nationals’ entire scouting staff is in Arizona right now for the Arizona Fall League, and they’ve been particularly impressed with Bryce Harper and Derek Norris’ recent hot streaks; Harper is 8-for-23 with a homer in his last six games, while Norris has a 1.004 OPS in 10 games and has homered in two of his last three. “We know he can hit. We know he’s got power,” Rizzo said. “He’s got a short, compact stroke, and you package that with, he’s got a plus arm, he’s blocking pitches. Pitchers love throwing to him.”
* Lastly, Rizzo said the Nationals have scouted Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish several times this year, though the general manager has not seen him in person in the last two years. But if Darvish does ask the Nippon=Ham Fighters to post him for a major league deal this winter, Rizzo sounded open to considering the possibility of signing him. “Our pro scouts have scouted him this year specifically,” Rizzo said. “They’ve scouted the Japanese professional league, as well as every other international league that plays organized baseball. We’re open to acquire talent in any way, shape or form that we can.”