Mike Rizzo has spent time in Palm Springs, Calif., on business before. It is home to one of the Lerner family’s palatial houses, the site of the Nationals’ first clandestine meeting with Jayson Werth, a courtship that ultimately resulted in Werth’s seven-year, $126 million contract in December 2010.
Rizzo’s time this week in Palm Springs figures to be less significant. Not far down the street from the Lerners’ home, the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort will host baseball’s annual general manager meetings. GMs and other executives, including Rizzo, began filtering in last night, and the meetings begin in full today.
The three-day conference brings less action than the bustling winter meetings, which take place in Nashville starting Dec. 3. More laid-back and relaxing, the GM meetings are where GMs lay groundwork for the rest of the winter: dabbling in trade talks, meeting with player agents, getting a feel for the offseason climate.
The Nationals have yet to spring into any action this winter, in part because they still must reach a resolution to sign Davey Johnson to a managerial contract for 2013. It would be beneficial to clear that hurdle before they get serious about their roster maneuvering.
Free agents have been cleared to talk with all 30 teams for four days now. As a general rule, the longer free agents remain on the market, the less likely it becomes they will sign with their own teams. And so the Nationals may have to act quickly on two sought-after players.
They have interest in re-signing Adam LaRoche and Sean Burnett, two players who are surely receiving ample attention. After he hit 33 homers, drove in 100 runs and won a Gold Glove, LaRoche is clearly the top first baseman available. Left-handed relievers who can set up and pitch to lefties and right-handed batters are hard to come by, and Burnett’s market already appears to be robust, with potential contenders like the Cardinals and Dodgers in need of players just like him.
The Nationals signaled their intent to let starter Edwin Jackson find the eighth team of his career when they did not give him a qualifying offer. The move also gave them an urgent priority: Find a fifth starter, either via trade or free agency. The Nationals could use a veteran to go with their imposing, young foursome of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler.
Over the next three days, Rizzo’s outlook for the offseason will start to take a clearer shape. Check back for frequent updates, and keep in mind they may be coming late in the day and into the night because of the West Coast schedule.