Off to the best start in team history, the Washington Nationals guaranteed the immediate future of their team’s architect by picking up the two-year option on General Manager Mike Rizzo’s contract, keeping him in Washington through the 2018 season. In between games of Saturday’s doubleheader, Rizzo met with Nationals managing principal owner Ted Lerner, who delivered the news and gave him the papers to sign.
“We are pleased with the job Mike has done over the past nine years,” Lerner said in a team-issued statement. “He and the baseball operations team have worked tirelessly to help build this organization into one of Major League Baseball’s elite clubs. We are fortunate to have him.”
Although the move was expected, the Lerner family appeared in no particular hurry to exercise the option. They finally announced the move before the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Rizzo’s contract had a June 15 deadline. While terms were not disclosed, The Post has reported the option is worth $2.5 million annually.
“I always felt that we were doing a good job here,” Rizzo said. “I wasn’t worried about the contract at all. I guess it’s good to have the decision made and get it done. We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’ll be right around draft time, so that would be inconvenient to be working on things at time. It was something that I thought very little about. Now that it’s behind us, we can take that off our plate and not have to worry about it.”
Rizzo, a former longtime scout, rose from assistant general manager to GM in the spring of 2009. The Nationals added to Rizzo’s title in 2013 by making him the president of baseball operations as well. Under his tenure, the Nationals rose from a National League East bottom-dweller with a barren farm system to a perennial contender.
“We started at such a level when the Lerners took over from Major League Baseball,” Rizzo said. “It took time. We put together a scouting and player development that I think is second to none. A front office staff and a research and development staff that we are very proud of. The decisions that we’ve made utilizing our personnel are the keys to our success and how we built this roster and going all the way down to the lowest level of the minor leagues.”
The Nationals have won two division titles (2012 and 2014) and the minor leagues improved (they are ranked fifth entering the 2016 season by prospect bible Baseball America). Since the start of the 2012 season, only the St. Louis Cardinals have won more regular season games than the Nationals’ 387. After a disappointing 2015, the Nationals are 23-14 to start this year.
“I was the first employee [the Lerners] hired [when they took over the team in 2006],” Rizzo said. “I’m proud of that fact and I want to see it to fruition and that’s winning a championship for Mr. Lerner specifically and for the city of D.C. It’s important to everything we do. That’s the object of why we work so hard and we put in all the hours.”