Resetting the table for the winter and looking at what the Nationals have to do to build another contender in D.C.
Looking towards the future as the 2021 campaign wound down in early October, Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about his goal of putting together a roster that can potentially win at least 90 games every season. Would it be any different this winter considering their reboot at the trade deadline this past July 30th?
“Our goal is to win the division, is to win the World Series each and every year,” Rizzo told reporters in the dugout in Washington, D.C.’s Nationals Park over the final weekend of the regular season.
“Some seasons going into the winter it’s a little bit more problematic to foresee that, but our goal is to be better next year, give ourselves a chance to win and that can fortify us throughout the season. As we’ve seen, these are long seasons, and 162 [games] is definitely a marathon, and you saw the amount of pitchers that we went through this year, and you leave Spring Training with a set of five starters and you turn around and you’ve got one of the five left. Life comes at you fast, and it came at us fast pretty quickly this year, but you have to have the organization that can sustain it, and that’s what we’re building towards.”
“It’s going to be a long winter,” manager Davey Martinez said at the end of his fourth year on the bench in the nation’s capital.
“We’re going to sit back and reassess, but we’re going to get better, and we’re going to get better soon, so I’m excited about the future, especially with some of our young kids.”
Those young kids, including players that the club acquired in the deadline deals, like Josiah Gray, Keibert Ruiz, Riley Adams, Mason Thompson, Gerardo Carillo, Lane Thomas and more, along with players from their previous draft classes, and some of the younger players who did not get dealt this past July, will form the core of the next championship team in D.C.
Rizzo, pointing to the job he and his staff did to get the club to the postseason for the first time in 2012, after taking over as GM in 2009, said that he wouldn’t offer a timetable for a return to relevance, since it depends in large part on how some of the up-and-coming and developing players in the organization progress.
“Nobody thought in 2012 that we were going to win 98 games,” Rizzo explained, “including myself, so you know timelines are kind of at the will of the players on the roster. It depends on how quickly does Keibert Ruiz become that frontline catcher, and Jo-Jo Gray become a frontline starting pitcher, and the bullpen matures, the Thompsons and that type of thing, and what have we built around them and what does the draft class, the [Cade] Cavallis and the [Cole] Henrys and that group, what do they look like?
“So those are all questions that we need to answer in the near future, and I think those are all legitimate questions that we all have to look at.”
“And as far as putting a timetable,” he added, “I’m not going to put a timetable on becoming a championship-caliber club again other than to say we’re looking towards a championship-caliber season next season.”
Martinez, after getting a good look at some of the unproven talent in the organization over the final months of the 2021 campaign, said at the end that he was excited about what the future holds for the Nationals.
“I saw some good things over the last couple months,” Martinez said.
“Some of our young players played well, and I’m looking forward to 2022 and Spring Training and the future for this organization.”
While it was ultimately a second straight disappointing outcome, following the Nationals’ World Series win in 2019, Martinez said, there were positives to pull from what he saw.
“Obviously, you grind out this whole year for one expectation,” he said, “and that’s to get to the playoffs and World Series, so it didn’t happen this year, but with that being said, we made some changes, as we all know, and we definitely got younger, and we got some really, really good pieces, and I’m looking forward to the future, I really am with these guys.”
Scott Boras on Juan Soto signing an extension with the Nationals:
“Juan has mentioned to me that he wants to make sure he’s working for a club that’s going to compete annually” pic.twitter.com/ABAWy9pkEt
— SNY (@SNYtv) November 10, 2021
According to Scott Boras, the agent of the star the Nationals intend to build around as they reboot the organization, Juan Soto, Soto wants to see that Washington and its ownership is truly committed to fielding a competitive team in the near future before he commits to any type of extension that would keep him in D.C. long-term.
Having watched the team move on from and trade many of the players that he played with over the first four seasons in the majors, you can understand Soto having some questions or reservations about what the club that traded away Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, Brad Hand, Daniel Hudson, Jon Lester, Josh Harrison, and Yan Gomes, all of whom (with the exception of Turner) were on expiring contracts, is going to do this winter as they build the roster for 2022 and beyond.
At the GM Meetings in Carlsbad, California on Wednesday, Boras talked about what his 23-year-old client, who is under team control through the 2025 season, wants to see before a potential long-term agreement is discussed again.
“Juan Soto wants to win,” Boras explained, “so the first thing that’s going to have to happen, is that he knows that he’s working with an ownership that’s going to annually try to compete and win and then I think once he knows that then he’ll be ready to sit down and talk whenever they choose to talk.”
“I just know that Juan Soto has mentioned to me that he wants to make sure he’s working for a club that’s going to compete annually,” Boras added.
Rizzo’s response to the latest volley from Soto’s representative?
Asked Mike Rizzo about Scott Boras’s comments from earlier. He said the Nationals stance hasn’t changed, they want Soto long-term and the proof of how competitive they are is in the last 10 years. More on that soon.
— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) November 11, 2021