Dec 3, 2013, 12:24 PM EDT
General manager Mike Rizzo just wrapped up a conference call with reporters a few minutes ago. Obviously, last night’s trade for Doug Fister was the primary topic of discussion, but Rizzo also addressed some other issues, including the competition for No. 5 starter, the state of things at second base and the continued desire to add a left-hander to the bullpen.
Here are several highlights from Rizzo’s session…
Q: How did the Fister trade talks come about?
Rizzo: “We opened the discussions just before the GM meetings via telephone. [Tigers GM] Dave [Dombrowski] and I had some conversations and kind of set up some meetings in Orlando at the GM Meetings to discuss some of his starting pitchers. We originally kicked the tires on Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. And as we turned our focus mostly towards Doug Fister after the GM Meetings, they kind of progressed to the point where we had specific players in mind in return. And Dave and I went back and forth for a week or so about the type of players that would be involved in the package. Sometime late yesterday we came to an agreement on what players that he would get back, and physical information was given back and forth for the four players involved. And shortly after we got the green light from our medical staff, they got the green light from their medical staff, we announced the trade.”
Q: Do you have any interest in trying to sign Fister to an extension?
Rizzo: “Well, we haven’t broached that subject with him. He’s been a Nat for a day, so we’re going to see where we’re at, what we’ve got here. We know that Doug is a terrific competitor, he’s a tough pitcher on the mound and is really one of the more successful pitchers in baseball the last three years. We’re very excited to have him added to our rotation. Like we said going into the GM Meetings, we really like our ballclub, we like our rotation and we recognize we’re not without flaws. But we’re trying to put the best product on the field for the Nationals’ fan base.”
Q: Was Fister the guy you targeted all along?
Rizzo: “We really had identified Doug as our primary acquisition target as far as starting pitchers go, thought he was an undervalued asset. We thought that we had really strong scouting reports from our scouts in the field, we had extremely strong sabermetrics reports from our analysts here in the office. A guy that I’ve seen pitch over the years and I’ve scouted personally at times and fit the criteria that we were looking for for one of our rotation starters: a big, physical pitcher that takes the ball and logs innings and has had success at the most crucial times in a team’s season. So, we like the entire package with him. We also liked that he had multiple years of control and a guy that we think can grow with the Nationals.”
Q: Why do you think he’s been undervalued?
Rizzo: “That’s a good question. He’s certainly not undervalued by us here. It’s a good day in the Nationals’ office when the sabermetricians and the scouts in the field see the players in the same way. It makes things much easier for me. That’s what we had here. It’s a good match for us. He’s the type of pitcher who could continue to be very successful here in the National League. We feel we’ve got a good defensive infield. Him being a 55 percent groundball guy, I think he’ll flourish with that. Pitching in the National League without the designated hitter, his numbers will only improve. The fact that we control at a comfortable cost — when you look at the players that are required in recent trades in the last couple years with the Garza trade, the Shields trade, the Dickey trade — we thought the player acquisition that we would have to give up was palatable.”
Q: Were you willing to trade away top young prospects like Anthony Rendon or Lucas Giolito?
Rizzo: “We made it clear to the industry we weren’t going to part with a handful of players, some of them you just mentioned. To do a deal, to get a caliber of pitcher like Doug Fister with the makeup he has and the track record he has, we’re excited. We gave up three fine players to get him. You have to give to get. We felt that it was a fair baseball deal. The trade did what they felt they had to do. And we filled the need we thought we needed to fill.”
Q: How do you view the No. 5 spot in the rotation? Is it Ross Detwiler’s if healthy?
Rizzo: “We feel that we’ve got the resources to have a quality guy sitting down there. I think the difference this year from previous years, we’ve got great depth at that spot. When you talk about Detwiler and [Tanner] Roark and Taylor Jordan and [Nate] Karns and [Sammy] Solis, and then the younger wave of guys that could get here in the future, we feel good about where we’re at. It was one of the reasons we felt it made it possible to move a Robbie Ray in a trade, because we have starting pitching depth close to the major leagues. That’s what made it comfortable for us to move a talented, young, left-handed pitcher in Robbie Ray.”
Q: Are you done going after starting pitchers?
Rizzo: “I think we have enough to handle the fifth spot in the rotation and have depth. As we all know, it takes more than five starting pitchers to win in a season, and we feel comfortable with the quality of depth that we have in our rotation.”
Q: Does Fister’s reputation as a groundball pitcher fit well with new manager Matt Williams and defensive coach Mark Weidemaier’s philosophy?
Rizzo: “Again, I think that’s going to play into his success here. Because of the advanced techniques that we’re going to employ this year will be an aid to that. I just think he’s a great pitcher. He’s hard to pick up. I’ve talked to guys who have hit against him, guys who have played against him. You’re talking about a 6-foot-8 guy who comes at a real difficult angle to handle as a hitter and has extreme late sink in the strike zone, doesn’t walk anybody, can really pitch to all four quadrants of the plate, and a guy with a full arsenal to get major-league hitters out.”
Q: What’s left on your offseason agenda?
Rizzo: “I don’t think much has changed since we started the offseason. We feel that we’d like to tweak the bullpen a little bit. We’d like to help the bench a little bit. We wanted to address the rotation, which we’ve done. We still have some work to do. Like I said, we’re not a flawless team, but we think that we have a good, talented ballclub, and I think that going into the Winter Meetings we like the construction of the roster and the makeup of the ballclub. We’re going to do what we have to do to improve ourselves, and we think that we’ve taken a step towards that with the acquisition of Fister. But we’re certainly not going to be content with that. We’re going to do what we have to do to make us better.”
Q: What’s the plan for Danny Espinosa?
Rizzo: “Danny Espinosa is going to go to spring training and battle for a job on the roster. He’s an excellent defender, Gold Glove caliber at second base and shortstop. He gives us speed, he stole 20 bases in the big leagues in a season so far. He hit 20 home runs in a season so far in his young big-league career. He had a down season last year, but this guy’s a makeup guy. He’s a grinder, and a guy that his personality and his makeup plays well on this club. I’ve always been a Danny Espinosa fan and I still am, and I think he’s going to have a good major-league career.”
Q: Is Anthony Rendon your starting second baseman?
Rizzo: “Anthony Rendon finished the season as our starting second baseman, he’ll go into spring training as our starting second baseman. But we’re going to have competition at that position, and there’s going to be competition for several roster spots.”
Q: Do you feel like you’re set at second base with Rendon and Espinosa?
Rizzo: “Yeah, I like our second base situation. We certainly have talented players at that position, those two guys that you mentioned. We have depth in the minor leauges at that position, and we feel comfortable there.”
Q: How important is it to now have all five starting pitchers under team control for at least two years?
Rizzo: “It’s comforting to know that you’ve got good, quality starting pitchers that you control. It doesn’t stop you from having a long-term outlook on your roster. You always have to be looking ahead and looking forward. And I think we do a good job of that. You can’t be complacent. You have to constantly be thinking. You have to be creative and you have to do what you have to do to keep this thing flowing always with talent coming to stand the test of time.”
Q: How important is it to add a left-hander to your bullpen?
Rizzo: “We think that’s one of the things we have to address. We have in-house options there. I think we’re better-suited going into spring training with our left-handed bullpen than we did last year. But it’s something that we’re looking into the free agent market or the trade market and trying to upgrade. It’s a spot that we feel that we have to upgrade at. That said, I think we have some in-house options that can perform at a high level for us.”
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