His offseason isn’t over by a longshot. Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo still has much left to do. There’s a hole at third base after Anthony Rendon bolted for big bucks in Disneyland as a free agent. There’s work to finish in the bullpen, probably with a reliable arm that can get outs in crunch time. There may be the need for a second baseman to spell Howie Kendrick. Ryan Zimmerman needs to be re-signed or else Rizzo can add a first baseman to his offseason shopping list.
But there’s also another matter of business for the Nationals to tend to, and better that it’s sooner rather than later. Rizzo’s two-year extension, signed in April 2018, runs through the 2020 campaign. The terms of the deal were never made public, but Baseball Prospectus reported it was an $8 million pact.
In announcing the new deal, Rizzo told reporters that it was more important for him to return to his role and finish the job at hand - leading the Nats to the promised land of a World Series victory - than to be viewed as the winner in the negotiation with the Lerner family.
Well, Rizzo has ascended the mountain - probably with a celebratory cigar in hand - and now it’s time for the GM to write his next chapter.
There is no sense that there’s any fracture in the relationship between the Lerners and Rizzo; in fact, it appears as strong as ever.
Rizzo has walked the fine line between his reliance on the eye test from his vast scouting background and integrating analytics into the Nationals organization to the point that the team boasts one of the top groups of numbers-crunchers focused on advanced metrics in the game. Plenty of organizations have melded scouting and analytics; the Nationals have done so, but not at the expense of the hardworking scouts that are the backbone of everything that happens between the foul lines.
The question Rizzo must ask himself is this: Should his next chapter take place in D.C. as he turns the Nationals into more than a one-time title-holder, or in another city with a team that would be happy to take advantage of his impressive track record as an executive?
Again, there’s no sense Rizzo wants to leave, but a high-ranking official who boasts a resume of success both on the field and in negotiations behind closed doors, would be a coveted catch. Think of those teams who seem to constantly be in a state of rebuilding - they’re the ones who would need someone with Rizzo’s background and expertise.
But as Rizzo tries to put the correct pieces together to extend the Nationals’ dominance, the Lerners need to decide whether he’s the man for the job moving forward. So far, the indication is that their relationship is as strong as ever, rooted in the mutual desire to see the Nats succeed.
Don’t expect negotiations to be anything but circumspect and behind closed doors. That’s both the Rizzo way and the manner in which the Nationals do business. Rizzo dislikes discussing his contract status, preferring to deflect questions to more team-oriented points of business. And that’s one of the reasons the Lerners have grown to admire and respect Rizzo: He puts team first above self, just as he asks his staff and players to do.
It’s been a busy few months for Rizzo. He’s helmed the Nats to that elusive World Series title and gotten married. An extension announcement - either shortly before the regular season starts or soon after the first pitch of 2020 - would ensure that the productive marriage between Rizzo and the Nationals continues - and hopefully prospers.