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Rizzo on Werth, Willingham, pitching

Dec 6, 2010, 5:28 PM EST

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Mike Rizzo wrapped up his daily media session a little while ago. Here are some of the highlights from the Nationals’ GM…

Responding to the negative reaction around baseball to the Jayson Werth contract: “There’s no negative reaction from me. I’m satisfied with the deal. I’m glad we got Jayson Werth. I can understand some of the comments. We’re taking care of ourselves. We’re trying to build something special here. We thought this player exemplified what we were trying to do. I don’t apologize for signing Jayson Werth. I’m glad we have him in the fold. We’re a better ballclub today than we were yesterday.”

On what happens once Bryce Harper is ready to take over in right field: “There’s plenty of outfield spots for Bryce Harper to play and Jayson Werth. The good thing about Jayson is he does have versatility. Certainly, at the beginning of this contract, he can play center field if we need him to. And Bryce Harper, his athletic ability, he can play anywhere on the field, also. Down the road, we hope we have that problem in the very near future, where we have to decide where Bryce Harper is going to move Jayson Werth to. We’ll be better for it.”

Could Werth wind up at first base way down the road? “I’ll put it this way: I see Jayson Werth towards the end of this contract being able to play one of the corner outfield positions. He’s a terrific athlete. Keeps himself in great physical condition. From some of the left fielders I’ve seen, in the American League and the National League, this guy certainly, at 38 years old, can play left field for me in this league.”

If you can’t acquire a starter, would you look to get a reliever? “We’re looking to improve our rotation for sure. If that’s not available, then we’d certainly like to bolster our bullpen. First and foremost, we’re still actively seeking starting pitching help. We’re going to construct the team with that mind. If that doesn’t become available, then we’ll turn to strengthen other parts of the ballclub.”

Are you surprised at how much other GMs are asking for in exchange for a pitcher? “I wouldn’t say surprised. Good, young front-of-the-rotation starting pitching is hard to get. It’s hard for you to get it through your own system, and once you have it, to get rid of it you’re going to have to improve yourself, not only by talent, but by numbers of players gotten in return. It hasn’t surprised me one bit. I think that the young starting pitching is such a premium now, you’re going to have to really give to get.”

Have you met with Cliff Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, here in Florida? “I have spoken to his agent. Here, yes.”

How much has Jesus Flores been playing lately and will he be 100 percent for the start of spring training? “We believe that he’ll be 100 percent full-go at the beginning of spring training. He’s playing regularly in Venezuela. They often split time with catchers in Venezuela. But he’s playing regularly.”

Will Danny Espinosa be 100 percent for start of spring training? “He’ll be ready, the first day of spring training, ready to go, 100 percent.”

Any chance of carrying three catchers? “I’m not going to put anything in stone, but I think it would be unlikely for us to carry three catchers.”

UPDATE AT 7:18 P.M. — My profound apologies. I thought I had included Rizzo’s quotes about the possibility of a Josh Willingham trade, but I just realized I left those out for some reason. Here’s what Rizzo had to say on that subject…

How do you balance what you might get for Willingham vs. having him on your team for another year? “The easier part of that question is: We know what we have with Josh Willingham. We know what his productivity is. We know what he brings to us on the field and in the clubhouse. So we have to weigh that against: What would we get if we were to trade the player? It’s an open-ended question, but that’s always the question you have to ask yourself.”

Does the Werth signing make the prospect of trading Willingham more palatable? “What it does is, you know that right field is spoken for. You don’t have to worry about that. There’s no platoon situation out there. There’s no question. You’ve got your right fielder. I guess with the addition of an outfielder, it would make another outfielder a little bit more comfortable to move, if you get the right deal. But Josh Willingham is not just any outfielder. He’s a good, productive player, and a guy that we’re going to have to get the right deal in return to move him.”


  1. SonnyG10 - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:37 PM

    Sure hope we get a top of the rotation SP without giving our future away.

  2. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    The Red Sox have needs in the outfield and behind the plate. Would Willingham and one of our catchers be interesting to them?

  3. Sunderland - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    The catcher situation is interesting. If Rizzo is confident in Flores, maybe he trades Ramos? Personally, I'd like Pudge moved, even for a bag of balls and some cash, and have Ramos and Flores on the active roster.

  4. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    Isn't in interesting that while the Redskins fortunes seemed ever more deeply mired in Dan Snyder's misdirected largesse toward big named players …The Nats fortunes appear to be improving, step-by-painful-step from the Bowden era. Its being done the right way … the way Boston and Texas have done it.

  5. Daniel Aubain - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:43 PM

    Huge fan of the Werth signing. Just wish Dunn were still around to enjoy it too.

  6. Another_Sam - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:45 PM

    I want to keep Willingham. I fear that if he goes, we'll see too much of Morse in the lineup.

  7. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    Need a name, Mark. Give us the name.

  8. Ernie - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    Baltimore Sun says the O's are considering the Hammer to play first base. Could someone explain why they might move him there but the Nats wouldn't? Willingham's numbers look so much better than Pena or LaRoche to me, and I like the guy more than Dunn. Any news on his status after knee surgery?

  9. Frank - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    OK, we don't carry 3 catchers; who is most likely to go? Flores will have almost zero trade value before 1/2 season healthy and playing regularly in majors and I don't think Nats can afford to be giving players away, so I don't see it being him going. I saw Ramos referred to as the "once highly touted catching prospect" … is he a bargaining chip or an undervalued asset? I'm not convinced yet that Norris is anywhere near ready to catch in MLB (he was even DH'ing most of AFL), so does it make sense to trade Ramos?That leaves Pudge. The biggest asset was bringing a winning attitude and playoff experience. Does Werth replace that? Do we need Pudge now? Can we trade him?

  10. Sunderland - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:55 PM

    Ernie:We HAVE to add a left handed bat. If not, we're to easy to control. We take a right handed outfielder (Willingham or Morse) and move him to first, we're limiting ourselves and our options for a left handed bat.

  11. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2010 at 10:56 PM

    Pudge and Willingham to the Red Sox for pitching? Are we getting warm Mark?

  12. Ernie - Dec 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM

    Sunderland:Thanks. I finding that although I know a few things about what happens between the lines, the commenters here (like you) have taught me a lot about GM/business issues that I never used to think about. This is the first "hot stove" season I've followed closely. I'm learning a lot.

  13. Doc - Dec 6, 2010 at 11:02 PM

    Mark, how 'bout a hint every half-hour????

  14. Paul - Dec 6, 2010 at 11:09 PM

    Pudge has almost zero trade value. He is bad offensivly, and cheaper deffensive catchers can be had (without giving up players). The Sox have Veritek and Salta whatever his last name is on their roster and seem to be ok with that. If that want to acquire a catcher, Epstein has been high on Russell Martin forever and he was just non tendered. Everything that I have read about Ramos is that he is the most advanced defensive catching prospect out there. He also has some pop. Maybe like a Mike Napoli player – decent on base, 20 HR's, .245 BA.I have also read Norris is still a way aways from being ready to catch in the big leagues but his bat is great. I can see the Nat's signing Pena to a one year deal (kind of like what Beltre did last year – to show everyone his crappy contract year was a fluke, and cash in next year) while moving Norris to 1B in the minors, with the idea he will be ready to play 1B in 2012.The reason everyone is talking about trading Willingham is that he has good trade value – productive player (when healthy), 1 year contract (easy to cut your losses), and affordable. Unfortunatly you need to give to get, and he is the most tradable player on the team, that the team would move.

  15. Brian R. - Dec 6, 2010 at 11:11 PM

    How about The Name Wheel of Fortune? You just have to tell us how many of the letters, not where in the name the letters are.I'd like to buy a vowel… E

  16. Souldrummer - Dec 6, 2010 at 11:40 PM

    @PaulRamos doesn't get on base. He's got some pop but he doesn't get on base but so much and rarely walks. These things tend to work themselves out. Let Flores start at AAA and have him show something of what he offers. Let Norris start at AA and we'll see what he can do. Pudge is untradable and I hope they don't play him "because he's a veteran" [cough, Riggleman, cough]. We really need to see what Ramos' skill set is because we will have to make a real decision about whether Norris or Ramos is our catcher of the future sometime in the next 12-24 months. Hey, everybody said that it was aggressive to give Pudge a second year. We're going to see why right now. Didn't hate the signing, but he can't have much value given his salary and how badly he cratered at the plate during the second half.

  17. Anonymous - Dec 6, 2010 at 11:41 PM

    How about Willingham, a catching prospect (Ramos) and Burgess to Tampa for Garza? They still might need to throw in another arm, but it would be a great deal.Tampa needs a catcher, DH and bullpen help. This might get it done…

  18. Doc - Dec 6, 2010 at 11:52 PM

    I checked the Winter Leagues a few days ago and Flores was hitting about .343. Ramos about .300. Flores was throwing them out regularly in the games that I perused.Flores probably will still need to go down to AAA for a bit more work after ST. Somebody will need a catcher like Pudge for the second half. Ramos and Flores look like a great duo for the next few years.

  19. Paul - Dec 7, 2010 at 12:32 AM

    IMO, catcher is the most important defensive position on the field (except pitcher). Having a veteran prescence on the team is a good thing. Pudge can still do it defensivly and is relativly cheap at $3 million – just don't start him too often.I think it's great the Flores is hitting well and playing well in the Winter Leagues, but he could be a cross between Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Superman, and the only that matters for him next year is to stay healthy. He can't be the "catcher of the future" until he can play a season with getting DL'd. So for me, the jury is still out until he can do that.Ramos' minor league career OBP is .332, which is good for a catcher (Carl Crawford's career OBP is .337). However, he did struggle last year in the Twin's AAA team (OBP .290 for 300 PA). I read somewhere, that if you follow power in minor league prospects, that is the main indicator they are going to develop into a decent hitter (mostly). I still feel that Norris will end up at 1B. If his bat is as good as it looks, you don't want to waste his knees behind the plate (a la Harper). If Ramos can't hack it as our "catcher of the future" and Flores is healthy – maybe we can move that title.

  20. Paul - Dec 7, 2010 at 12:34 AM

    Also, unfortunatly, I don't think you'll ever see Ramos and Flores together for long if they both develop into good, young catchers. That is a scarce position and has good trade value. You can always get a cheap, servicable back up (Nieves) easily.

  21. Will - Dec 7, 2010 at 12:40 AM

    I don't think the Rays have much of a need for a catcher. They have Kelly Shoppach signed through the end of the year, and they have John Jaso, who put up a pretty fantastic rookie season. There aren't many catchers that can bat leadoff and post a .372 OBP. He's also 27, and has another 4 years under team control before he becomes a free agent.

  22. Anonymous - Dec 7, 2010 at 12:49 AM

    I thought it was pretty obvious from Mark's question that the mystery PTBNL is a closer.

  23. Anonymous - Dec 7, 2010 at 1:00 AM

    If it's a closer, think Jonathan Papelbon. Just sayin'…

  24. Paul - Dec 7, 2010 at 1:06 AM

    That is a really astute observation about Papelbon. Only problem with him, is he is a one year rental – bassed on interviews I've read with him, he wants every dollar he can get in free agency. Also, he has been declining every year he has played. Now, with all that said, he would still be the best person suited to close on this team by far.

  25. BinM - Dec 7, 2010 at 1:09 AM

    With Pudge, Ramos, & Flores all apparently healthy, and Norris possibly a year+ out, the Nationals are in a good place, imo. Barring off-season trades, the team goes into Viera with the top-three intact, optioning either Ramos (22yo) or Flores(26yo) to SYR to begin 2011; Norris (22yo in Feb) will likely start the year in Harrisburg (AA). Regardless of who starts the 2011 season in DC, this is a very good thing; The Nationals are finally showing some system depth at a few positions, which opens up trade options. Moving Pudge to a contender for a prospect (or two) at the deadline, or either Flores/Norris along with others for a big SP in the off-season isn't quite as scary as it would have been a year ago.

  26. Anonymous - Dec 7, 2010 at 1:23 AM

    I don't understand the need/urgency for a closer. I think either Clippard or Storen can handle it, and our bullpen built some nice depth last season. If anything, we merely need to add another middle reliever. I'd rather the Nats focus on starting pithing and the offense.

  27. Sunderland - Dec 7, 2010 at 1:29 AM

    Heath Bell.If we add a top notch closer, it helps us a ton. Clip, Stor, Burn, as set-up, that'd rock.

  28. PDowdy83 - Dec 7, 2010 at 2:45 AM

    I have a feeling if a closer is brought in it will probably be someone like Chad Qualls, Bobby Jenks or Brian Fuentes on a 1 year deal ala Matt Capps last season. Then if (when) you are out of contention at the deadline you can trade them for something of use. Maybe even a Jon Rauch reunion.I will say the Rays need a LFer because the GM didn't sound sold on Desmond Jennings being ready quite yet. They also lost the entire back end of their bullpen. I don't know why everyone assumes they need a SS though they have Reid Brignac who is 24 and has been a highly touted defensive shortstop for several seasons and has about the same batting line as Ian Desmond. To pry away one of their starters it will probably take Hammer and Clippard plus something else. With Cole Kimball, Carr and Peacock looking very close to big league ready, parting with Clippard might not be terrible, I think the old sell high idea comes into play with him as well. He really fits the Rays MO. Young and cheap.A Willingham to Boston for either Doubront or Lars Anderson could be very interesting too. Anderson is definitely blocked at 1b now that they got AGon. From what I have read about the way the Sox view Doubront, they don't see him as much more than a #4 starter in the AL East. That would at least have to project as a #3 starter in the NL. Boy, that Werth signing really makes you wonder what they are going to do next, doesn't it?

  29. BinM - Dec 7, 2010 at 2:51 AM

    Not much in the way of reasonably-priced closer candidates this year via trade; Bell [SD-$4M], Papelbon [BOS-$9M+] & others are Arbitration cases & will be pricey. Maybe Gregg [TOR], Rauch [MIN], or Reyes [StL] from the FA list, but nobody seems to have made the same mistake that PIT did last year with Capps. It might be better to let one of the available options (Clippard, Storen, Burnett, or even Carr) get a tryout in the role first. Big-time (and high-salary) closers are really useful only to true contenders – Bell in SD was an outlier in 2010, imo.

  30. N. Cognito - Dec 7, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Anonymous said… "I don't understand the need/urgency for a closer. I think either Clippard or Storen can handle it, and our bullpen built some nice depth last season. If anything, we merely need to add another middle reliever."If you want to improve the bullpen, wouldn't it be better to improve it at the top?





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