Nationals pick up Rizzo’s option, keeping him as GM through 2018

The Nationals have picked up the two-year option on Mike Rizzo’s contract, keeping the longtime general manager in D.C. through at least the 2018 season, the club announced this evening.

Rizzo was in the final year of a deal he signed in 2013, but the club held a two-year contract option for the 2017-18 seasons that needed to be picked up by June 15.

“It feels good,” Rizzo said following his team’s 7-1 loss in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Marlins. “We started from ground zero here, and we’ve built ourselves something that we believe in, that we think is special. I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Rizzo-with-media-sidebar.jpgThough Nationals ownership took its time making this procedural move, there were never serious doubts about the option being picked up. Rizzo, more than anyone else, has been credited with the ascension of what was one of baseball’s least successful franchises when he took over as GM in 2009 into a two-time division champion with strong long-term prospects for success as well.

“We are pleased with the job Mike has done over the past nine years,” managing principal owner Ted Lerner said in a statement released by the team. “He and the baseball operations team have worked tirelessly to help build this organization into one of Major League Baseball’s elite clubs. We are fortunate to have him.”

Lerner and Rizzo met between games of today’s doubleheader, at which point the owner informed his GM he was picking up the option and handed over the paperwork to sign.

“I always felt that we were doing a good job here, and I wasn’t worried about the contract at all,” Rizzo said. “I guess it’s good to have the decision made; you get it done, we’ve got a lot of work to do. ... But it was something that I thought very little about. Now that it’s behind us, we can take that off our plate and we don’t have to worry about it.”

A highly regarded scout for two decades, Rizzo was hired by the Nationals in 2006 to serve as assistant GM under Jim Bowden, the first major hire after the Lerner family officially purchased the club from MLB. Three years later, when Bowden resigned amid a scandal involving the falsification of a Dominican prospect’s age and identity, Rizzo was promoted to interim GM.

The Nationals gave Rizzo the job permanently in August 2009, shortly after he signed No. 1 draft pick Stephen Strasburg to a then-record contract. His 2013 contract extension included a promotion and new job title: president of baseball operations and GM.

The pick-up of this two-year option comes four days after Rizzo helped sign Strasburg to a seven-year, $175 million contract extension.

“I was the first employee that they hired, and I’m proud of that fact,” Rizzo said. “I want to see it to fruition, and that’s winning a championship, for Mr. Lerner specifically, and for the city of D.C. It’s important to everything we do. That’s the object for why we work so hard, why we put all the hours into it.”

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