“It’s the first year in our history where we’re on the positive side of this instead of scrambling,” franchise third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “We almost have too many good players, which is a good place to be.”
Already one of the best teams in baseball, stocked with an enviable collection of young talent, Rizzo and the Nationals will walk into Nashville’s Opryland Hotel at the annual winter meetings with few needs. After they traded top pitching prospect Alex Meyer for center fielder Denard Span last week, the Nationals must add a starting pitcher and bullpen arms to complete their roster.
How they fill those holes and attack their other options, such as re-signing Adam LaRoche or keeping Michael Morse, will shed light on Rizzo’s vision. They have arrived at the juncture where how much to plan ahead or push for the coming season is a real decision. Rizzo believes the Nationals should stay their course, that future considerations should not trump immediate desires.
“We haven’t wavered from it,” Rizzo said. “We’ve traded some young players, like a Meyer, but for a guy we have some control over in Span. I don’t think we’ve wavered at all from a long-term philosophy. You always have to think globally. You do what’s best for the club for the immediate future, but you also have to think about not rushing things or tying your hands.”
Thinking of their core
One big-market general manager once said he could build a team capable of winning 125 games, but to do so he would be abdicating his responsibility. The juggernaut would require sacrificing future success, and, most problematic, once in the playoffs there would be little assurance the talent could trump the randomness of a five- or seven-game series. The best way to win a World Series, the GM said, is to get to the playoffs as often as possible.
In 1991, John Hart took over as the Cleveland Indians’ general manager. Over the next three seasons, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Kenny Lofton would all join the Indians prior to turning 25. From 1995 to 2001, Hart oversaw the nucleus that helped the Indians win six out of seven division titles and make two World Series.
The Nationals’ collection of talent reminds Hart of his early days in Cleveland. He said it will require a balance to answer “the age-old sort of situation” of how to manage the importance of present success with long-term planning.