“Let’s just say your club has been in contention for a few years,” Detroit Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski said. “Now it’s [the trade deadline], and you’re trying to win. You’ve been there a couple years, and yet it takes that [prospect] to get that player. Well, that’s a decision you make at time. Do you trade that player that, even though it hurts your future, to get that guy that makes the difference to win this year?”
The Nationals received an early test last season, when Rizzo stuck to his plan to voluntarily shut down ace Strasburg for the stretch run. He determined, to great disparagement, that shelving Strasburg, two years removed from elbow reconstruction surgery, gave him the best chance to stay healthy in the years ahead.
The Washington Post’s LaVar Arrington, Mike Wise, Liz Clarke, and Jonathan Forsythe predict whether the Nationals will exceed their MLB-best 98 wins in 2013.
“It was a very controversial move, a move that’s never been done before,” Rizzo said. “We took a lot of criticism for it. Again, it was in our long-term vision and our long-term plan. . . . We’ve done it before. We’ll do it after. This is the way we develop pitchers. This is the way we protect pitchers. To me, protecting and developing go hand-in-hand.”
And the Nationals have developed a minor league system worth protecting. “I just look at it and laugh,” said Vice President for Player Development Bob Boone, a baseball lifer who played catcher for 19 major league seasons. Boone has worked for the Nationals since 2005. He can recall when they filled the top levels of their farm system with veteran free agents, because none of their homegrown players had enough talent to compete.
Now, he said, the Nationals’ Class AAA outfield, all players developed from their system, may be better than their major league outfield from 2009. Infielder Anthony Rendon and center fielder Brian Goodwin, both of whom will start the year in Class AA Harrisburg, rank among the top 75 prospects in baseball.
“And,” Boone said, “wait until you see Giolito.” Lucas Giolito, the Nationals’ first-round pick from 2012, is an 18-year-old who was throwing 100-mph fastballs before he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Giolito’s estimated major league arrival is 2016. Depending on how the path he takes, and if he believes it will best preserve the Nationals’ future, Rizzo will limit his innings.
“It’s not, ‘We’re all in for 2013,’ ” Rizzo said. “We’re all in for 2013, but we also have the vision for 2013 and beyond because we want to sustain this, the success that we’ve had. We don’t want to be a one- and two-year and done type of franchise.”