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Video: The full Rizzo interview

Oct 21, 2011, 11:00 AM EDT

General manager Mike Rizzo was kind enough to sit down this week for a lengthy interview at Nationals Park and answer questions on all sorts of topics facing the organization as the offseason begins.

You may already have read my article off the interview, in which I focused on Rizzo’s take on the Nationals’ situation at first base entering 2012. The rest of the article includes snippets of other subjects we discussed, from Davey Johnson’s status to a possible contract extension for Ryan Zimmerman to Bryce Harper’s tweets in support of the Yankees earlier this month.

Here, though, is the entire interview on camera, superbly produced and edited by the good folks at Comcast SportsNet and CSNwashington.com. Hope you enjoy it…

  1. Sue Dinem - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Masterful half-truth buried within what was otherwise an honest assessment:"We have good, strong depth up the middle in our minor-league system with players up the middle of the field"Well, at catcher (Norris, Leon, Freitas, Nieto) and second base (Lombardozzi, Kobernus, Sanchez, Perez) but nearly every shortstop has the "eventually he may have to slide over to 3B" in his scouting report. As for centerfield, it's true that Burns and Goodwin are promising draft picks, but neither has played substantially as a pro yet, while Michael Taylor is new to the position (same goes for Harper if you really want to specious) and Eury Perez has to answer the doubts that he can get on base without the bunt.Things are certainly better than they were, but I cringe whenever people start talking about the farm as being fully rebuilt. We're not there yet.

  2. Gonat - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    A very telling interview, thanks Mark, and NatsTown should feel some relief hearing Rizzo talking about Zim's future with the Nats. Hope that gets done sooner than later.This was Rizzo in another interview which seems to backup that the focus is an Outfield bat which may be a corner outfielder and not necessarily a CF: "I think we’re an outfield bat away and a starting pitcher away from really being a contender in the division. We’ve talked a lot about the need for a high on-base percentage top of the order bat,'" the general manager continued, "'either to fill in one of our outfield positions, either center field or a corner outfielder if you move [Jayson] Werth to center field. We’ve made that perfectly clear that that’s one of our needs.'"We all know the Nats will be tied to Fielder and Pujols however, the above statement seems clear that it is OF and Pitcher(s). Maybe our top recruiter Jayson Werth will get Ryan Madson here as part of pitcher recruitment.

  3. Mark'd - Oct 21, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Rizzo actually did a good job talking about how 2012 will be better with a healthy LaRoche and Zim and the continued maturation of Ramos, Espi and Desi.I am feeling the focus will be corner OF now and still believe a Crisp for 100 games is an upgrade. The Nats have a history of over-using the star players because they lacked depth. It would be good to see extra depth.

  4. SCNatsFan - Oct 21, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    One thing for sure knowing Rizzo; whatever players we aquire won't be mentioned in the media until they have already bought their plane ticket to town. He runs a ship that has no leaks.

  5. jd - Oct 21, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    Sue Dinem, You are exactly right; but where we have an edge is in the fact that we have several top end prospects like" Harper,Rendon,Cole. The depth is still not there and we are top heavy. My biggest fear for this off season is that we do another Werth. In all cases my advise would be to do more money but for fewer years. Guys like Fielder and Sabathia and Wilsom for that matter will want 5 or more years minimum and I'd walk away in a heart beat; you don't want any of these guys in their 4th and 5th years and beyond. Crisp is a reasonable idea but he's not adding a significant number of wins to the team.I still think that Span and/or Upton are better players than Crisp. I also disagree with anyone who thinks trading a reliever (any reliever not named Rivera) for an above average every day center fielder is a bad idea. I understand Span's medical issue and off course you don't make a deal without medical clearance but taking that out of the equation you have to trade either Storen or Clippard for Span if it's available.

  6. Steve M. - Oct 21, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    SCNatsFan said… One thing for sure knowing Rizzo; whatever players we aquire won't be mentioned in the media until they have already bought their plane ticket to town. He runs a ship that has no leaks. October 21, 2011 10:10 AM Not sure I buy that as Greinke was tied to the Nats and so was Adam LaRoche.If you are talking about Jayson Werth, I agree with you as nobody thought he would seriously come to Washington. After pulling that off, the media believes the Nats can get anyone, which is a good thing.This year the media are naming everyone so they don't look like they were caught by surprise. With that said, Rizzo runs the same information machine as Kasten, dis-information mixed with good information. Read what he said about 1st base, he left the door a tiny bit open.He won't make the same mistake he made last year where he laid down the gauntlet and made a #1 starter the team priority and then didn't deliver. That's how he got the reputation amongst his peers as "desperate". Not a kind label. Rizzo got smart and backed away at the trade deadline from looking "desperate" and that is where he needs to improve from dealing from strength. When you deal from weakness, you will look desperate. This time Rizzo analyzed the situation on where the improvement can be and used the word "needs", not priorities, not have to haves. This broadens it so it is no longer a leadoff CF "…to fill in one of our OF positions, either centerfield or a corner outfielder if you move Werth to centerfield…" If Rizzo does NOTHING, he has already said that the team will get better through maturation of the young players and Werth getting back to career norms and a 85-100 RBI LaRoche and Zim for 162 games. Talking about maturation, this is a matured Mike Rizzo. It was a good interview and he had all the good responses.

  7. jd - Oct 21, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    Steve M.'If Rizzo does NOTHING, he has already said that the team will get better through maturation of the young players and Werth getting back to career norms and a 85-100 RBI LaRoche and Zim for 162 games' I don't necessarily buy that because just as some players will have better years; some will have worse years. Do you not agree that Morse is likely to regress? Clippard? is it not possible; even likely that Espinosa won't repeat his 1st half power output? that we won't get a good half like we got from Nix? That LaRoche is not all the way back? It's nice to be optimistic (and with Strasburg back and all it's easy to be) but I still believe that the team as it's now constituted and without changes is roughly a .500 team; when Harper, Rendon, Cole et al start graduating that's another story.

  8. Steve M. - Oct 21, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    JD, I agree about long-term contracts for older players. The prize is a year away. Matt Kemp just turned 27 years old and will be 28 when he is signed as a Free Agent. If the Nats don't get Kemp, the consolation prize is Michael Bourn.Please do some in-depth research on Crisp. I think you would be impressed. Throw out the WAR numbers as the defensive UZR just doesn't do it for me. I saw him play. No way he goes from super stud UZR in 2010 to garbage in 2011. I don't buy it.Crisp is a Type B Free Agent and can probably platoon with Werth if necessary plus he was the best base stealer next to Bourn in the Majors in 2011.Span had a great 2009, should have been an All Star. He had a decent 2010. Span had a great 1st half in 2011 before he was injured. You just don't know with the brain injury.The one thing I don't like about Span is he is un-clutch. While he gets on base, his numbers really drop off with RISP.I would trade no more than a Henry Rodriguez for Denard Span and hope for the best. Another take it or leave it.Watching BJ Upton reminded me of our dearly departed Nyjer. Upton doesn't play smart. His caught stealing at 3rd with 1 out in the ALDS was a turning point in that series. His initial reads off the bat was poor on balls hit over his head like Bernadina in the 3 games I watched. I don't know this for sure and it could be an illusion, he doesn't seem to run after balls full speed, just my opinion. Maybe worst than all that, he strikes out at a 25.2% K Rate per PA. He has a 28.4% K Rate per AB with RISP and a .232/.318 with RISP.For those who hate strikeouts, Crisp has a 11.1% K rate per PA and the BEST clutch numbers of the guys you mentioned with a .298/.329 RISP slash. His stolen base numbers were 2nd best in the Majors.I would be thrilled to have Crisp on this team. The dollars are right, it wouldn't be a trade, and he transitions well to the bench and to a role player. He hits well in leadoff, 2 hole and back of the lineup.What I love best is he would be that pest on base to drive the opposing pitcher crazy. That intangible is worth a lot. Like Bourn, he is a stolen base threat every time he is on base.

  9. Steve M. - Oct 21, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    JD, I don't mind Rizzo's optimism as I am sure he will make some changes, but if he did nothing, they would win 84 games and not make the playoffs which is improvement but the fanbase is clamoring for more.I still see 2013 as "the year". If Rizzo is envisioning 2012 as the building block to 2013, I am ok with that. My thoughts are to stay away from 1 year rentals and unproven commodities and these High Risk/Medium Reward guys. Chien-Ming Wang should be the biggest risk he takes.If the Nats are in contention on July 31st, that's when you get your 1 year rentals and the market will be flush with those types of players especially centerfielders.

  10. Steve M. - Oct 21, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    I read Aroldis Chapman is being sent to the AFL and the Reds are going to try to convert him to a starter.This could be another case of the bullpen being a stepping stone back to a starters role. For anyone that didn't remember, CJ Wilson was a "closer" until 2 years ago.

  11. Mark'd - Oct 21, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    Rizzo has some moves to make and as Ryan Zimmerman said, probably 2 spots to fill. Rizzo has to go with more sure things than a gamble on a Span and his health or hoping Upton can live up to potential. That is old Nats math buying low and hoping for the best. Dmitri Young, the thinner version, is available at league minimum and all joking aside he could be that pinch hitter extraodinaire. If Rizzo needs a clutch hit off the bench, D-Meat may be the man. Obviously that is way down on the priorities list and good for Friday afternoon humor.

  12. jd - Oct 21, 2011 at 5:32 PM

    Steve M. As I said I don't think Crisp is a bad option especially as he only costs low level draft compensation in a year of a weak draft. I think the window for Matt Kemp is before he becomes a FA. The Yankees will be all in on him if it get's that far especially if they don't win next year. Having said that I think he will be very tough to pry away from LA now that Frank Mc.Court has a divorce settlement. Look for the Dodgers to lock up Kershaw, Kemp and Ethier. I think we've all discussed Upton to death and I think debating Span's health is silly. We're not doctors and we haven't treated him. My point is that any above average every day player is worth more in win shares (by a lot) than any reliever. Atlanta had a historically great pen and they are at home; the Yankees have a HOF closer backed up by 2 fantastic set up men and they are home. St.Louis has a make shift pen and they are playing in the WS. I get your point re clutch but again I don't really believe in the concept all that much (admittedly your stats show something). Finally; I completely agree with your UZR point. A player doesn't suddenly become horrible defensively; it's usually a gradual decline with age. UZR is a very iffy stat.

  13. jd - Oct 21, 2011 at 5:36 PM

    Steve M, Mark'd, My overall thought process is that above all Rizzo can't or shouldn't make any moves for 2012 which will screw up 2013 and beyond which if not messed up will be excellent and this includes bad FA signings.

  14. Wally - Oct 21, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    Thanks for replaying the entire interview, Mark. I always find how Rizzo says something as much or more informative than what he actually says. My take on him based on this that he is feeling pretty confident in the team, which I think is warranted. Doesn't mean playoffs in 2012 (necessarily), but more legit optimism than we have ever felt.My views on the offseason are still the same: I'd either like to see them go for clear, established upgrades at key spots (SP, OF, maybe MI), or just hold tight and play the kids and keep the depth (except something needs to happen in the last OF spot). The Jason Marquis-type acquisitions don't make sense (to me) any more. I am referring to the Beltran/Oswalt kind of guys. Big dollars, but should be short years (2-3). I am generally opposed to the mammoth SP contracts on principle, so I think that I would pass on Wilson and CC (if he is out there). I love/fear Reyes, but I think he gets a Werth-like contract, and I would pass on that too (but if I am wrong and it is more like 5/$85m, then I would go for it).Smaller moves like Crisp are ok, and loosely fit my hold-tight alternative. I think that he helps (because CF is such a hole for us), but I don't see him as a huge addition. And still worried that he gets hurt. What I would love to see is a package to get Peter Bourjos, but I can't see why the Angels would do that.

  15. Steve M. - Oct 21, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    Wally, I agree on Bourjos. The Angels have cash and will be looking to improve and probably not sellers even with an overcrowded outfield. If they keep Wells and THunter in the outfield with Trumbo and Bourjos and possibly Trout, they have the DH in the AL so they can go with 4 or 5 and I think they don't want to rush Trout.The Nats need to look at the bottom teams like the Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Astros to see what is there. I believe this Nats team is close. If all they did was make moves in Free Agency for 2 year deals to Oswalt, Beltran and Crisp, it would be an improvement.The Nats have never been contenders at July 31st so there will be time to further fortify if the Nats are in it. Everything doesn't have to be done right now at the risk of over-paying, over-signing in years, or trading away key parts.

  16. Wally - Oct 21, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    jd said… I understand Span's medical issue and off course you don't make a deal without medical clearance but …JD – just a process point, but I don't think that there can be 'medical clearance' with severe concussion trauma. I am not trying to debate his health, just saying that I think that the only way that you can pay 'fair value' for Span is after the player has actually reestablished himself on the field. I was a big SpanFan, and one of the first to promote Span as a player that fits us extremely well, so it is hard to say this, but unfortunately the concussion changes everything. I just think we buy low or wait, as disappointing as that is to me.On your separate point about the relative value that a reliever < a position player, I share your opinion (although I think we represent the minority view here). I am not an Upton fan. He is undeniably an upgrade to our existing roster, and I also think he is better (in absolute terms) than Crisp, but unless it is just a salary dump (which I doubt), I don't think he is good enough to warrant the trade and salary cost. At what I expect each to cost in $$ and players (admittedly Upton suffers here as the only one that needs to be traded for), I would go for Crisp.

  17. Wally - Oct 21, 2011 at 6:15 PM

    Steve M – I think that is a good way to think about it, but I would add to your list a few teams that appear to want to 'start over', either because of an aging roster, a bloated payroll (they tried to go for it, but it didn't work), or even a new GM. I am thinking of teams like: CWS, CHC, NYM, MIN (maybe), A's.Not many new CF possibilities there, maybe Byrd or Pagan? But several interesting SP opptys: Danks, FLoyd, Dempster, Garza, Pelfrey, several A's. I don't like all of them equally, but some are interesting.

  18. Mark'd - Oct 21, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    I am not advocating making NO moves just smart moves. Keep in mind the Minor Leaguers like Harper could be here in 2012. Easiest low risk move is Crisp on a 2 year deal. He is below the radar in terms of hidden talent.If the Phillies don't re-up with Oswalt, that may make sense. I still think Buehrle and Wandy are better fits if available.

  19. Steve M. - Oct 21, 2011 at 6:31 PM

    Wally, the White Sox and Minnesota don't have much to offer outside of pitchers they won't part with. The A's are in the same boat as Minny, losing a lot of players to Free Agency.Brandon McCarthy is the best young arm under the radar. He is with the A's and had a breakout year. Doubt they trade him now but probably available on July 31 as he is a Free Agent next year. Like I said, remember that name. Back from an injury and didn't play in 2010. Went from a 4.62 to a 3.32 ERA and WHIP of 1.131. Suffered from playing on a bad team.

  20. Wally - Oct 21, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  21. Wally - Oct 21, 2011 at 9:01 PM

    SteveM – CHW also has Carlos Quentin, I am not a huge fan but he has some pop. Also, I think Danks and Floyd are starting to get expensive, so I think it is possible that they move them (and it has been rumored in a few places).Ben Revere in Minny is kind of interesting.I like McCarthy – he was a former CHW and TEX top prospect that had some injuries and never quite put it together there.

  22. Gonat - Oct 21, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    Wally – The Twins have 5 years of control on Ben Revere. Not sure why you think they would trade him until they know the health of Span.I agree with you on Carlos Quentin.

  23. Gonat - Oct 22, 2011 at 1:01 AM

    SteveM brought up Brandon McCarthy a week or so ago and FanGraphs did a great story on him.I suggest you read it. http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-brandon-mccarthy-saga-part-one/It got me thinking about Shairon Martis who re-worked himself. I would hate to see him cut loose.

  24. Wally - Oct 22, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    Gonat – those were two good articles, thanks for the reference. Funny, but the Nat pitcher that came to my mind wasn't Martis, but Jordan Zimmermann. A similar drop in certain stats like walk rate and HR%. It isn't a perfect analogy, since he became less of a GB pitcher and his K rate dropped. I have no idea if he changed his arm angle or added a new pitch like a cutter (although my eyes don't think so). I am less inclined to see Martis in this picture, though, if for no other reason than he dropped down a league to get those results. But i didn't follow him too closely, so maybe you are right. I am not saying that I would give him away, but I don't think I would clear a space on the 40 man (at the expense of another prospect) just to keep him.On Revere, it is obviously just speculation on my part, but the reason why they might is that they have Revere, Span (when healthy), Joe Benson and Aaron Hicks that are similar versions of the same kind of player – speedy, good field, no pop OF that profile best in CF, and probably not enough O for a corner spot. At the same time, they have glaring MI needs, and maybe even catcher if you believe that they will move Mauer to try to keep him healthy. Kind of matches up well with us organizationally.

  25. Anonymous - Oct 22, 2011 at 2:16 AM

    Thank you for posting the interview Mark!Things are certainly better than they were, but I cringe whenever people start talking about the farm as being fully rebuilt. We're not there yet.Sue, you forgot to mention first base … sure looks like they are set there for an awfully long time with Marerro plus Moore in the wings?What struck me was Rizzo's assertion that he was deep in starting pitching. Yes, improvement has been dramatic given that most of the high minors starters that were there the year before are either gone, in AA, or are now relievers. Except for Detwiler. Most all have been replaced/supplanted by pitchers who once starred in Potomac. None except Detwiler were high draft picks. That can't be understated.Espinosa plus Desmond seem like a lot of shortstop but both are in the majors. And then there's Matt Antonelli who looks like he might be a peer to those two? Not sure if he stays with the organization or not given that he is blocked. But, yes the minor league system isn't even close to cooked yet. If Rendon, Meyer, Purke and Goodwin pan out … and perhaps Turnbull? Throw in Harper and the minors prospect-wise might be ranked really high next year. But the depth will not be what it is in places like Tampa Bay, KC, Texas, etc. Seems like it will take at least another 2 years of solid drafting. Which is why trading top prospects now does look awfully risky. So, they can't afford a trade that won't net a top pitcher who is under 30. The same with a top position player.

  26. Slidell - Oct 22, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Steve M. @ 2:07-regarding "never being in contention on July 31"- lest we forget the interesting inaugural 2005 season at which time the Nats were fading but still in 2nd, 5 games back of the Braves.

  27. Gonat - Oct 22, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    jd said… Steve M.'If Rizzo does NOTHING, he has already said that the team will get better through maturation of the young players and Werth getting back to career norms and a 85-100 RBI LaRoche and Zim for 162 games'I don't necessarily buy that because just as some players will have better years; some will have worse years. Do you not agree that Morse is likely to regress?___________________________FanGraphs thought back in August that Michael Morse could have a similar 2012 except a drop in AVG:http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/michael-morse-will-the-production-continue/

  28. Anonymous - Oct 22, 2011 at 8:01 PM

    Crisp doesn't add a thing and in fact may block progress as long as Desmond and Espinosa are in the lineup. Crisp seems worse than the Morgan fiasco to me. Yeah sure he had a .330 OBP and .327 wOBA this year but the year before he was miserable with a .314 OBP and a .317 wOBA. Sorry, definitely NOT an improvement over Desmond leading off. Particularly given what Desmond provides in the field. Plus having Crisp block Harper? Seems more than a bit ludicrous. Meanwhile, NO ONE knows what Rendon might be able to do once he is back in baseball shape. Even as a DH he led all college players in OBP. They have plenty internally to fill in all the gaps with maturation and steady progress positionally. Its funny because last year with those poor stats Crisp had 3.3 WAR and this year only 2.2. Really dumb, signing Crisp.The ONLY player they should contemplate positionally is Albert Pujols. He is the difference between competing and going to the world series with things as they stand now. He brings more than just hitting and fielding he brings a lot of what Werth thought he could provide … and really couldn't.

  29. Anonymous8 - Oct 22, 2011 at 10:33 PM

    Anon, Crisp wouldn't block anyone as he can go to the bench. His offensive WAR was strong. His Stolen Bases were 2nd best in the Majors. If you put all your faith in Desmond than you won't have a backup plan if he returns to his 1st half stats. I think more is better. Sign Crisp and worry about Harper/Rendon coming up when it happens.

  30. Anonymous - Oct 24, 2011 at 3:33 AM

    Faith in Desmond is not well-placed. His career norms are his ceiling, more likely than not as his stage of development (career OPS of .714 in the minors, 2,600+ plate appearances, .691 in the Bigs, 1,200 PA as the starter). They keep talking about the guy as if he's been in AA ball the last two years and his "continued devlopment" into a show-stoppingly good player is any any day arrival. The evidence for the guy is weak. 139 K's for zero power? He is not a replacement level player at SS, and getting his potentially very good glove to work at the same time that his potentially solid bat is going has been very rare, and never when games counted. The club needs to move the kid and find some new approach at SS. We have 2 more years of Zim, they cannot waste 2012 roster space on the never-ending Ian Desmond every day SS experiement.

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