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For new GMs, rebuilding takes time

Oct 13, 2011, 3:01 PM EDT

US Presswire photo
Mike Rizzo has made plenty of roster alterations since taking over as GM in 2009.

Underneath all the hoopla surrounding Theo Epstein's move from the front office at Fenway Park to the front office at Wrigley Field lies one important caveat: No general manager can step into a new situation and completely overhaul a club's roster overnight.

As talented and respected as Epstein is, and as successful as he was in Boston, anyone who believes he can turn the Cubs into winners overnight doesn't appreciate just how monumental a task that is.

It would be one thing if Epstein was taking over a Chicago roster loaded with talent and a farm system overflowing with prospects. But he's not. The Cubs have one young position player to build around: Starlin Castro. They've got a couple of decent young pitchers in Matt Garza and Randy Wells. And they've got tons of dead money owed to under-performing veterans who are stuck on the roster for years to come. (Can you believe Alfonso Soriano still has three years and $54 million remaining on his contract?)

Overhauling a franchise, plain and simple, takes time. Just ask Mike Rizzo, who has been GM of the Nationals for three full seasons nowRead more »

  1. Anonymous - Oct 13, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    WAIVERS (1)Doug Slaten (Rizzo, 2010)Maybe he should have left him on waivers.

  2. Anonymous - Oct 13, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    Steve M. I was messing around with ESPN3 yesterday and there was a Venezuelan baseball league game on. Only reason it was of interest is the Meat Hook was playing in the game. He looks like he is in fantastic shape. The only at bat of his I saw he roped a solid single to left and hustled down the line at a speed I enver imagined possible for him. Good stuff. It truly looks like he is having a great time playing the game again.As far as players drafted by Bowden, wasn't Rizzo overseeing the draft in '08?-PDowdy83

  3. raymitten - Oct 13, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    Am I the only one perplexed at the Theo Epstein obsession? He is responsible for so many bad contracts — Dice K ($50 mil just to TALK to him!), JD Drew, Mike Cameron, Carl Crawford, John Lackey — as many as, if not more, than the Cubs and the Mets current have. His successes were based on applying the Moneyball theories with money — that theory is so well known these days it no longer gives him an edge and he's just another big market spender. I just don't get it. I think the Cubs are in a frying pan to the fire situation.

  4. natsfan1a - Oct 13, 2011 at 3:32 PM

    Good for you, Dmitri!

  5. dru in norfolk - Oct 13, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    I think it's worth mentioning that the picks in 07 and 08 were made with Rizzo in charge of scouting and should get more credit then Jumbo, who was probably busy talking trades like a used car salesman to whoever would listen (yea you cinncinati) to pull off draft hauls like that.

  6. Constant Reader - Oct 13, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    I think we can all agree that there's an element of chance and luck to the draft … a bit of a crapshoot. But when you make trades or sign free agents, you are supposed to be acquiring players who are big leaguers or near big leaguers. Interesting that Clip is the only Bowden acquisition of the trade, free agent, waiver set still with the club.I don't have time right now, but I think it would be interesting to know how many of the trade, free agent, waiver signings of the Bowden era are out of baseball now.

  7. Steve M. - Oct 13, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Ray, you are wrong again especially in proper context. Start with what Theo Epstein in a short amount of time constructed a team to go up against the mighty Yankees and beat them and won their 1st World Series in 86 years. I don't see any names on your list that were Epstein's fault as he had the money to spend and they were calculated risks and the Carl Crawford debate is 1 year of stats. His deal on Adrian Gonzalez was golden this past season so while he took it in the chin on Crawford, Gonzalez was a huge success. Lackey wasn't worth the money but still managed to go 26-23 for them over his 2 years with the Sox. A lot of teams would have paid Lackey the $16 million a year.Mike Cameron was a 2 year deal and got injured in 2010. He wasn't a high priced Free Agent and was really a guy there in case Elsbury couldn't do the job. I thought it was a good signing because they had the money to spend at $7.75 million per year which was MUCH LOWER than the $10,000,000 the Brewers paid him in 2009.If a low budget team had done the Dice K deal, its a huge hit which is why the people clamoring for Yu Darvish is correctly called High Risk High Reward.People could do the same about Rizzo with Werth, Maya, Gomes, Wang and others and on a smaller scale and say what you are saying. You have to take risks as a GM. The Red Sox like the Yankees can absorb the risks.

  8. JamesFan - Oct 13, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    Epstein may not look like so much of a genius after he is in Chicago awhile. The Cubs are the Cubs no matter who is in charge.This off season is going to be fascinating tow watch. The team's season-ending sprint has raised fan expectations to a very high level for 2012. Rizzo is on the spot to fill the obvious holes. What moves with Rizzo make? How long will DJ's contract be for? Will he go after a big free agent pitcher? (I hope not). Extend Morse? Sign CMW? Find that elusive high OBP, leadoff centerfielder through a big trade or go for a serviceable guy like Crisp? Will he resign Ankiel? How is he going to add critical depth to the bench. Love the hot stove league this winter.

  9. Mark'd - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:03 PM

    Here we go with another day of people talking from their butts. Ray Mittens pulling names out of the Red Sox and now wants to blame the GM because some high priced players under performed. The blame for Carl Crawford is on Carl Crawford.Also if you don't realize how big market teams do it, they compete with other big market teams like the Yankees on making the big headlines. That's unfortunately how the fanbase judges you and many times you fail if you call a 90-72 record in the AL East failure.

  10. Steve M. - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Mark'd, very true, sometimes you have to start with the player when assessing blame. Who would have predicted Carl Crawford's OBP would drop by .67 points to .289?Crawford easily could have been a Washington National instead of Jayson Werth although Werth didn't have a season to brag about unless you compare him to Dunn and Crawford.

  11. NatsStats - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    Yeah, I suppose it does take time to build a competitive team.However, the Rays seem to have a 1-year competitive plan every year–with little moolah to spend!

  12. Wally - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    So, as a Nats fan, would you rather have Werth or Crawford from here on out?

  13. Mark'd - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    I always find it fascinating how these teams are constructed. It is these later round gems that usually become the difference makers or these seemingly trivial trades like Clippard for Abanadejo and Langerhans for Morse.

  14. Steve M. - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    Wally, I keep Werth. Jayson's numbers were significantly better after the All Star break. Crawford also got better after the All-Star break but not as good as Jayson's.With an improved lineup, I see Jayson's number getting better in 2012.

  15. Sue Dinem - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:48 PM

    From my standpoint, I'd like to see Rizzo start going after H.S. players — not balls-to-the-wall like Bowden did — but more than what can be counted on the hand of bad shop teacher.I just finished the third of the seven affiliate reviews (link in name), which discusses the net effect of Rizzo's tendency towards college guys. As Epstein said in the "Moneyball" article in SI, the pendulum has swung such that HS players are now the overlooked talent pool. But if Rizzo doesn't change course, Potomac and Hagerstown are going to be chock-full of 23- and 24-year-olds (again) within a year or two.

  16. NatsLady - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    I don't know about Crawford. But I'm sticking with Jayson (like we have a choice!). After reading about the stuff in Boston, I think Werth has the right idea– you HAVE to keep the clubhouse "professional," and if he's anything, he's professional. Now, he's fun (e.g., the Presidents' Race), but that does not interfere with his work ethic or his support of his teammates.Except for when he was in the deep slump, he was always the first one out there with high-fives for guys. And his number will get better.

  17. Steve M. - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    The starting players for next season are mostly drafted players while the bullpen has been acquired mostly through trades:1) TBD2) Werth – Free Agent3) Zim – Draft4) Morse – Trade5) LaRoche – Free Agent6) Desmond – Draft7) Espi – Draft8) Ramos – Trade1) JZim – Draft2) Stras – Draft3) TBD4) Lannan – Draft5) TBD1) Storen – Draft2) Clip – Trade3) Matteus – Trade4) Burnett – Trade5) HenRod – Trade6) Det – Draft7) TBD

  18. Wally - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Steve M. said… Wally, I keep Werth.Yeah, I think that is where I am too. If you asked me last year when they both signed, I would probably have said Crawford. But I think he has real trouble with lefties which, although always there to a degree, really got exposed this year. Plus his fielding is more speed-dependant than I thought. Werth has less of a split problem, more power and his fielding is both instinctual and rangy, meaning I think it should hold up better over time.Sue Dinem said…From my standpoint, I'd like to see Rizzo start going after H.S. players Sue – agree (although the quality of college guys the last few years (in their spots) were pretty hard to ignore. And then of course, there is the international FA world….Good article on Oswalt in Fangraphs. I didn't pay attention when people were teaching how to embed links, so here it is as a copy and paste below. He is my first choice on a 2 year deal, maybe 2/$25m?

  19. NatsLady - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    I think it's pretty clear Wang will be signed and in the rotation. The icing on the cake is the trip to Taiwan with other Nats players. Not only are the Nats (and MLB) promoting that area of the international game, but I doubt Wang would show up in November representing another team.

  20. Steve M. - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    2 years in a row Rizzo has snagged 1st round talent outside of the 1st round in AJ Cole out of High School and Purke out of College.Now that the Nats aren't in the Top 15 picks, it will be value picks and finding more of the Cole's and Purke types out there to pull out of the latter rounds.

  21. NatinBeantown, nowwithlessTheo - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    NatStats,The Rays only got there after many, many years of bad teams and high draft picks. The genius of their front office is not that they rebuild quickly, but that they can be so consistant on "selling high" (Garza, Crawford) when they let guys walk and use the compensation to keep the farm system stockpiled.JamesFan: agreed that it's an exciting offseason to watch, but you can cross the DJ contract off your list. I'm fairly certain that he's already under contract for two more years to work for the team in some capacity, and it's just up to he and Rizzo to decide if that is the manager's spot. (Hint: it is.) Anyone, please correct me if I'm wrong on the details here.

  22. jd - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Nats Lady, Steve M. You do have to take into account that Ceawford is 4 years younger than Werth and is likely to decline later than Jayson. Steve M. I agree with your position on Epstein though. When you are a big market team you will inevitably write some bad contracts. The Yankees have AJ and ARod and Cashman is no fool. BTW, I think Rizzo should take the blame on Werth and Maya; these were very bad signings.

  23. Feel Wood - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Yeah, I suppose it does take time to build a competitive team.However, the Rays seem to have a 1-year competitive plan every year–with little moolah to spend!Yes, but how long was the startup period for those 1-year competive cycles? Over ten years of cellar-dwelling, right? Or did you somehow forget about that?

  24. Farid - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:12 PM

    The draft is the same way, fascinating in that it's a crapshoot, just like those Morse and Clippard trades.In 2006, when we took Chris Marrero, we could have had Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88 last year). Colten Willems could have become Joba Chamberlain. The next year, the Nats took Ross Detwiler, but could have had Madison Baumgarner (13-13, 3.21 in 2011). Or Jayson Heyward of the Braves. Aaron Crow (who we never signed) might have been Ike Davis, who has hit .271-26-95 in parts of two seasons for the Mets. No, the Nationals didn't make mistakes in their choices–rather–the success of draft picks are just so hard to predict. But, the Nationals have also lucked out. The player before Zimmerman was taken in 2005, catcher Jeff Clement, has a .201 career batting average in 54 games. The second player in the draft, Jeff Gordon (KC) has his first decent season in the majors, hitting .303-23-87. Gordon's first good year came the same time as Zimmerman's sixth.

  25. Traveler8 - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    Natslady, you do know that Wang is playing for the Taiwanese team, against the Nats et al? I will say, I think getting him renewed is a good idea, and I hope he feels that loyalty. I also like the Nats getting exposure in the Asian market.

  26. jd - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    NatsinBeantown. You can take it to the bank – DJ will be the manager next year. Based on how the team played down the stretch and how well he did with Desmond you have to feel that this is a good thing. Nats Lady, I also agree with you that Wang will sign with the Nats. What I am curious about is if we still try to sign another FA pitcher. If we do then there's no place for Det, Peacock or Milone (Unless we trade Lannan and/or put Det in the pen). I am not convinced that this is money well spent unless they get someone decent in the 5 – 7 mil range for no more than 2 years.

  27. jd - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    Farid, In some of the years you analyze the Nats were strong armed into taking 'slot' picks. The ownership group felt a debt to Selig for supporting their bid and went along. It is pretty clear that they have broken away from this strategy in recent years.

  28. NatsLady - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Anonymous - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Mark,I think it's important to note as Dru did a ways back that Rizzo was on board in late June 2006, so while Bowden was certainly GM, it's a little misleading to suggest that Detwiler, ZNN, Espinosa, etc. were "Bowden's" folks, as if they weren't Rizzo's. I'd bet if you asked him, Rizzo views those guys as "his," guys he put his name and reputation on as a scout and asst. GM. In fact, I think I remember coverage (maybe from you?) back when they took Zimmermann that that was widely seen as a Rizzo "get." Anyway, sure, there are several key players on the 40-man from the '07 and '08 drafts – but those were really Rizzo's guys as much if not more than "Bowden's." More interestingly is that there are ZERO FA signings, trades or other from the Bowden era. Rather than suggesting how long it takes to turn over a roster, I think this highlights how fast Rizzo has done it.

  30. NatsLady - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Yes, I saw that Wang is playing for Taiwan, along with another MLB player whose name I forget. Didn't mean to say he was wearing a Nats uniform, just think that the Nats' brass and Wang have this thing locked up.If that's the case, then you have to look at lefties for the rotation. I am assuming that Milone goes back to Syracuse.That leaves Detwiler, Lannan, and Gorzy and a FA/trade.Doubt they are going to give Gorzy another chance at a regular rotation spot.Lannan is expensive (in arbitration) and Detwiler is out of options, but do you all see trading either one?

  31. jd - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Feel Wood, The Nats like the Rays will become a contender in large measure due to the fact that they were such a horrible team for years. You think we get a sniff of Strasburg, Harper, Rendon if we were any good at all? The point I am making is that there are teams who are bad for years (Orioles) but never manage to turn it around; some credit must be given Rizzo for not screwing up the opportunity he was given especially by augmenting the top picks with over slot selections in later rounds.

  32. Steve M. - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    NatsLady said… I think it's pretty clear Wang will be signed and in the rotation. The icing on the cake is the trip to Taiwan with other Nats players. Not only are the Nats (and MLB) promoting that area of the international game, but I doubt Wang would show up in November representing another team. October 13, 2011 1:00 PM Didn't Wang essentially recruit buddies from the Nats and some of his old teammates from the Yankees?A good friend of mine spoke to Michael Morse and he said he is going on the trip with Wang. Ichiro Suzuki and his Japanese culture has been one of Michael's biggest influences in his career and Michael is probably really looking forward to the trip to Taiwan.Speaking of influences on Michael Morse and his success this year can't be understated the influence and tutelage from Jayson Werth. I don't think Jayson gets enough credit for what he does behind the scenes so wanted to mention that especially when we are comparing him with Carl Crawford.

  33. Mark Zuckerman - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    You guys are correct that Rizzo was very involved in the 2007 and 2008 drafts that landed Zimmermann and Espinosa (among others). My point wasn't that Bowden was responsible for acquiring those guys (or that Rizzo wasn't influential) but that as much as Rizzo has done since taking over as GM, there are still a ton of players in the organization from before that transfer of power. Epstein doesn't have the luxury of having been Chicago's scouting director the last two years, making his job even tougher.

  34. Anonymous - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    As a former Dodgers fan I've been following the ownership squabbles in LA with some interest and sadness. Now I'm curious whether their travails are an opportunity for the Nats. Kemp and Kershaw – a speedy, power-hitting outfielder and top-of-the-rotation pitcher – are either free agents or close to being free agents, I think. Could these two be in the Nats sights???

  35. jd - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    Nats Lady, I am not so sure I agree with you about Milone. He pretty well graduated from AAA; I don't get the value of sending him there for 1 more year. To me the question is: Can he be as good as Lannan? If the brass believes he can then the rest is fairly obvious.

  36. natsfan1a - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    Wally fyi: code you want is at the top of the page.

  37. NatsLady - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    jd, if you are right, then Lannan is on the block. Seems like you will get more for Lannan in a trade, especially from teams outside the NL East, because he is established as a starter with good numbers, whereas Detwiler has yet to prove himself. Being out of options, a team would have the same problem with Detwiler that we have with Henry, you can't send him down to work on stuff. On the other hand, he is under team control for longer. I guess it would depend on what the other team needs, as always.

  38. Anonymous - Oct 13, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    We should from here on out focus on drafting younger high school pitchers. Our farm is stacked now but many of our top talent guys are around the same age and there is a very good possibility that many of them would be ready for the Major league around the same time. What if there is no space for all of them. You dont want to just give away good prospects in trades because you are staked with ML ready prospects and you dont want to hinder their progress by making them repeat a level. The point is that we need to draft younger players now. No more College pitchers unless they are really good or young.

  39. N. Cognito - Oct 13, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    jd said… "Nats Lady,I am not so sure I agree with you about Milone. He pretty well graduated from AAA; I don't get the value of sending him there for 1 more year. To me the question is: Can he be as good as Lannan? If the brass believes he can then the rest is fairly obvious."You still have to take into account which players still have options. That's a sometimes ugly reality of managing a 40-man roster.

  40. Feel Wood - Oct 13, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    The ideal situation would be to have both Milone and Peacock in Syracuse to start next season, because it's inevitable that additional starters will be needed as the season progresses and they can be brought up to fill those gaps. If either or both of them starts the season in the major league rotation that would have to be considered a fail. Detwiler unfortunately belongs in this same category but can't go there because he's out of options. The best scenario relative to him would be that they sign or trade for a better starter so he can go to the bullpen and wait until reinforcements are needed in the rotation.

  41. sjm308 - Oct 13, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    I have very little to back this up but the days of us getting one of the top 5 prospects in baseball in the draft are closed. What I am hoping is that picks like Purke can still be stolen by paying above slot and I hope we can continue to get our owners to commit to that theory. I am not concerned about whether they are high school or college, I just want a decent chance at seeing our prospects play at the next level. The draft is always an iffy thing unless its SS or Harper and we will probably see a few more failures in the years to come now that we respectable. Werth over Crawford for his influence in helping turn a losing culture into one that thinks it can win on any day. Not sure Crawford would have brought that. I do realize that Werth has maybe just a few years left at a high level and that the contract was not one to brag about but he is ours and I will enjoy him.Hate to see Lannan's name continuing to be traded on this site but I guess if you are going to "sell high", now is the time. I honestly see him as a strong #4 next year for a playoff contender and I hope that is us.

  42. N. Cognito - Oct 13, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    Feel Wood said… "Yes, but how long was the startup period for those 1-year competive cycles? Over ten years of cellar-dwelling, right? Or did you somehow forget about that?"Yeah, but they had Chuck "I'm actually much worse than Jim Bowden" LaMar from 1998-2005. Or did you somehow forget about that? :^)

  43. sjm308 - Oct 13, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    Agree with feelwood about both Milone and Peacock. With injuries and the long season I feel confident both will be up sooner than later and its nice to have that kind of depth in our system. I also feel Detwiler needs to stay based on his work the last month and it probably will be in the bullpen. Does that mean we carry 3 lefties? or will Gorzo be cut lose. I am guessing Burnett is a lock.

  44. N. Cognito - Oct 13, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    jd said… "In some of the years you analyze the Nats were strong armed into taking 'slot' picks."List all examples please.

  45. Mark'd - Oct 13, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    SJM308, read SteveM comment at 1pm about not only drafting 1st round talent on the 2nd day.

  46. jd - Oct 13, 2011 at 7:54 PM

    NCognito, 2002 – Everts – 5th over all 2003 – Cordero – 20th 2004 – Bray – 13th. 2006 – Willems and Marrero 15th and 22nd. I don't feel like doing the requisite research but these guys were not as good as where they were picked and there was evidence (why else would you pick Everts ahead of Prince Fielder,Zack Greinke,Nick Swisher and Cole Hammels?)that they were picked for signability as much as anything else.

  47. N. Cognito - Oct 13, 2011 at 8:06 PM

    jd said… "2002 – Everts – 5th over all2003 – Cordero – 20th2004 – Bray – 13th.2006 – Willems and Marrero 15th and 22nd.I don't feel like doing the requisite research but these guys were not as good as where they were picked and there was evidence (why else would you pick Everts ahead of Prince Fielder,Zack Greinke,Nick Swisher and Cole Hammels?)that they were picked for signability as much as anything else."My mistake. Didn't know we were talking about the Expos. Or the Nats before the Lerners took full control.

  48. yankish2 - Oct 13, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    Did anyone else hear the rumor that NatsJack is going to the Cubs with Theo?

  49. Anonymous - Oct 13, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    yankish2 – I heard that rumor about NatsJack. Problem was they wanted Strasburg along with him and the Nats would get Alfonso Soriano in return and the Nats have to pay Soriano's $18 million a year remaining on his contract.Rizzo asked Theo why he was getting so little and Theo said "because we are taking CubsJack".Still analyzing this one.

  50. sjm308 - Oct 13, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    pretty sure natsjack will show some loyalty and stay with his Nationals. Unless he picks Boras as a new agent I think we can get the hometown discount and he and CMWang will both sign for less. No facts to back this up, just a gut hunch.

  51. A source with knowledge of the trade - Oct 13, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    I heard the Nats were trading away two Anons for a bag of balls and some Big League Chew.

  52. D'Gourds - Oct 14, 2011 at 2:25 AM

    While I do give some credit to Bowden for drafting some good talent like Espinosa, who do you think was his main talent evaluator? Mike Rizzo.



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