David Huzzard: Mike Rizzo's mistake with the bullpen

The Nationals bullpen for the next couple months will be the main focus of the club because it is the glaring weakness of an otherwise near flawless team. The rest of the Nationals roster is a close-to-perfect construction of what a baseball team should be. I now sympathize with Mike Rizzo because I understand the mistake he made in the construction of the Nats bullpen. It wasn't that the Nats were unwilling to spend. They tried very hard to give away their money this offseason, but relievers kept choosing other teams. It makes sense why Kenley Jansen went back to the Dodgers, but it makes little sense why other relievers passed up the Nationals for teams like the Marlins.

Trying and failing to add free agents wasn't the end of the world for Mike Rizzo, though. The Nationals bullpen was good last season and all they really lost was the closer, and for more than half the season in 2016, that was Jonathan Papelbon. On paper, the Nats were starting 2017 better off in the bullpen than they started 2016, and that's where Mike Rizzo's mistake comes in. He viewed the relievers through a scouting eye. He looked at the stuff and the potential of pitchers like Koda Glover and Blake Treinen while ignoring the reality of their past performance. He saw top-shelf stuff and thought it would translate when it never had before at the major league level.

Mike Rizzo is a scout, and now that my business is hiring, I am a scout of sorts. I have to read an application, perform an interview and decide if someone is qualified to do the job I want them to do with little to no information on if they are truly capable of doing the job. This is where Mike Rizzo failed. He made a judgment based on his background as a scout. He bet on the talent of the relievers he already had and so far they've failed him. The Nationals bullpen has cost the team at least four games. With the lead they've built and as good as the rest of the team is, having those four games would essentially have the division title on ice in the second month of the season. Without them, the Nats still have a comfortable lead, but the fight is far from over.

In order for the Nats to make it to the next level and get over the hump and into the National League Championship Series, Mike Rizzo is going to have to step away from his scouting roots and not bet on talent. To look at a players' current performance and spend what is necessary to get the true top-shelf reliever or relievers the Nationals need, and it would also benefit the Nats if Rizzo were to jump the trade deadline. That is going to make it even more expensive and the asking price right now is going to be a prospect that is going to hurt. Giving up Victor Robles for any reliever would be a Flip Forsberg-level mistake unless it brings the Nationals a World Series title. Some mistakes are worth making, but it would have to be the right player or combination of players in order to make it and Mike Rizzo doesn't give up prospects he believes in.

Judging by past experiences, which is always dangerous because current experiences can often change even the most hardened mind, it is doubtful we see the Nationals do much of anything until right up against the trade deadline, and then it's more likely they end up with a Francisco Rodríguez or Fernando Rodney than Alex Colome. Big splashes at the trade deadline have not been Mike Rizzo's bag, and it is more likely the Nats make a small move and seek internal answers than trade for someone else's already established reliever. But there is a first time for everything, and the Nats have never had a team this close to perfect minus one glaring but entirely correctable issue before.

David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals at Citizens of Natstown. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHuzzard. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our regular roster of writers.

Nationals reinstate right-handers Koda Glover and ...
Kelley and Glover on track to return from DL on Fr...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/