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Trade Deadline Won't Produce Immediate Gratification for Nationals
The hitch: Johnson's heir apparent at first, Chris Marrero, isn't quite ready for the majors. Marrero, who just turned 21, is at high-Class A Potomac, where he's hitting .302 (.362 OBP, .489 SLG, .851 OPS) through Sunday.
"Chris Marrero is certainly the first baseman of the future for us," Rizzo said, adding that he's at Potomac for a second season only because he was slowed by an injury last year. "If he didn't sign with us out of high school he'd be a college junior right now and we'd be drafting him again, so he's come a long way since we took him. He's starting to take off with the bat offensively, he's learning a new position at first base and that's coming along very well. He's certainly the first baseman of the future.
"For the immediate future, this year, next year, Nick's our first baseman right now. The Lerner family . . . there's no mandate to move salaries, to move players just to clear space. We need to make good, prudent baseball deals. With Marrero in the background and knowing what we know of him I think he's going to be an outstanding major league player, and with that in mind, if we can make a good deal for any of our players, we certainly will."
With that in mind, is there pressure on the front office to make a splash of some kind at, or even after, the deadline in order to appease the increasingly restless -- and absent -- fan base?
"I talk with ownership all the time and I think the fans have been extremely patient with us in the three years since '06 when the Lerners took over," Rizzo said. "This is a long process. There are no shortcuts when it comes to a championship-quality ballclub. I think the fan base has to trust in the front office executives like myself that we're going to do what's in the best interests of the ballclub. You cannot make a deal just to make a deal, because it will come back and bite you. We have to make good, prudent deals and figure out what our roster is going to be this year, next year and beyond, and always strive to improve the ballclub in every deal you make."
No conversation with Rizzo would be complete without a mention of Stephen Strasburg. The club has a month to sign the phenom-slash-top draft pick and Strasburg recently said he hadn't talked with the Nationals. Rizzo preaches calm.
"There are a lot of things that are happening behind the scenes that nobody is going to know about because we're not going to talk about it," said Rizzo, adding that the team will not be negotiating "through the media." "People in the front office, we know what Stephen Strasburg means to our major league ballclub."