One easy decision is to extend Mike Rizzo’s tenure with the Washington Nationals

Photo by Andrew Lang for TalkNats

Nearly two and a half years ago, the Lerner ownership group gave Mike Rizzo a two-year extension and a third year option making him one of the highest paid executives in baseball. That deal is set to expire at the end of this season. Rizzo was the Lerner ownership group’s first hire back when they bought the team in 2006. Rizzo has been serving as the President of Baseball Operations and General Manager of the Washington Nationals and is the third-longest tenured General Manager in Major League Baseball. It is time for another contract. 

While Rizzo is coming off of a tough 2022 season and 107 losses, he had really made some tough decisions over this past offseason, and last year’s trade deadline that has set the Nats on a new path. As unpopular as it was, the trade of Juan Soto was essential for the team to strip down to it’s current state, and rebuild with top prospects and young MLB players. The only fat left on the bones are the contracts of Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, and after this season, those deals will have $128.33 million combined cash obligated to be paid-out. Every other deal is short-term and controllable, and that will give the team full flexibility to spend with a clear path past the 2026 season. In fact, after the 2024 season, Strasburg’s contract is all the team will have on the books — as of now of course. The hope is, after this season, that ownership spends significantly more in the next offseason with some key long-term deals.

No matter what happens with the ownership of this team, a Rizzo extension would bridge a gap to any new potential ownership group, and protect the continuity from the players’ side. If a new ownership group decided to part ways with Rizzo, so be it. That is the cost of doing business. Personally for Rizzo, he is not sweating this. He has been at this point on essentially one-year ‘lame duck’ deals too many times before to worry about what he cannot control. As a former scout, that was the life of living on one-year deals.

“It’s not the first time, won’t be the last time, I’m on a lame-duck contract,” Rizzo said. “It doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t bother me. I have been there before. I was an area scout. I worked on 20 one-year contracts in a row. So I’m no stranger to limited security. My work will be my résumé, and we’ll see how it goes on from there.”

Certainly some of the criticism pointed at Rizzo on his formation of the 2022 team could be questioned from some standards on what he could control, other decisions like neglecting team defense was a fatal flaw. Yes, it was far from perfect. Decisions like placing Luis Garcia at shortstop begged the question of what was he thinking? Water under the bridge, and the ship has been righted. Whatever the brain freeze was in 2022, it did help net the Nats the №2 pick in the draft.

To be fair, there has been simmering criticism of Rizzo for some poor decisions on scouting draft picks and a development system that has not yielded enough stars in the past decade. To his credit, Rizzo changed to De Jon Watson prior to last season to run the development system. In addition, Rizzo made sweeping changes in his scouting and analytics department. A lot is riding on his decision to draft Elijah Green as the №5 pick in the 2022 draft — the highest draft pick the team has had since picking Bryce Harper as the top pick in the 2010 draft. Personally, I was opposed to picking Green, as I felt there were safer picks out there like Brooks Lee from the college ranks, and I went on record with that prior to the draft. As an armchair GM, nobody asked for my opinion, and I hope Rizzo was right.

On the positive side, the Rizzo résumé will always start with the World Series championship in 2019, four NL East crowns, and the Wild Card. There were eight consecutive winning seasons too. If you believe that baseball is cyclical and rebuilds are a fact of life, than this should not be about a blame game, rather extending congratulations for the best best stretch of Washington baseball since 1933 that dates back from the Walter Johnson to the Joe Cronin years. Can Rizzo do what few GMs ever get the chance to do with one team? That is to take a team through two separate rebuilds to prosperity.

By the time Strasburg’s current contract expires at the end of the 2026 season, we can look back and have a clear view of Rizzo’s entire career to that point, and we will be able to see how much of it worked out with this new development group as well as the most recent draft picks, and have a better idea how to judge those trades in 2021 and 2022. Give Rizzo another extension to potentially take him through the 2026 season.

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