Mike Rizzo inherited the the Nationals’ general manager job in the oddest of manners when an age-changing scandal in the Dominican Republic eventually led to the resignation of Jim Bowden, the Nationals’ original GM. Rizzo was sitting there as the assistant general manager and scouting director, and Stan Kasten, then the team president, gave him the job on an interim basis.
This was in the spring of 2009, and only later that summer, in August, did Kasten name Rizzo as the fulltime general manager. The Nationals were still in the midst of their painful building process, and while Rizzo had a reputation as an exceptional scout, there was no telling how he would oversee the baseball operations of an entire franchise.
Since then, Rizzo has made 30 trades. Some have been insignificant. Others have helped shape a roster that has won two division titles in three years. All have been essential in determining the way the Nationals do business.
In December 2010, the Nationals shook up the baseball world – and made some in that world laugh – by signing free agent outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126-million contract. Rizzo believed it signaled that the Nationals were ready to compete. But in general, that competition has come on the field. Washington has never given another free agent a contract that lasted more than two years, and none has been worth more than the $28 million reliever Rafael Soriano earned in 2013-14 (including bonuses).
So Rizzo the scout has become Rizzo the trader. He loves doing deals, and the latest came Wednesday, when the Nationals found themselves as a player in the three-team transaction that sent outfielder Wil Myers from Tampa Bay to San Diego. Leaving Washington: outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who would have been a backup on the 2015 Nationals, and pitching prospect Taylor Ott. Arriving at Nats Park: 21-year-old right-hander Joe Ross, a 2011 first-round pick who hasn’t advanced past Class AA, and – eventually – middle infielder Trea Turner, a 2014 first-round pick who technically can’t be traded until a year after he was drafted, and therefore will be termed a “player to be named later” when the deal is announced, which is pending physical exams for all involved.
The early returns, among scouts, agents and executives, is that Washington did exceptionally well in this deal, essentially not upsetting a 2015 roster that is set to be a contender while bringing in organizational depth in starting pitching – and Ross will fit in nicely with a group of rotation prospects that includes A.J. Cole, Blake Treinen, Lucas Giolito and others – as well as finding the shortstop that could replace Ian Desmond should Desmond depart via free agency prior to 2016.
Perhaps it’s too early to judge this one. But not so most of the others. As we wait for Rizzo to speak publicly about this trade, it seems like an opportune time to look back at all of his trades – finding some interesting threads along the way, such as how Ryan Langerhans turned into Doug Fister.
June 8, 2009 – Traded OF Ryan Langerhans to Seattle for OF Michael Morse.
Outcome: Langherhans was a fourth outfielder-type who since has played in 138 major league games for the Mariners, Angels and Blue Jays – and none since 2013. Morse, a one-time minor-league shortstop, became the left fielder on the 2012 National League East champs – and a fan favorite – hitting 49 homers in 2011-12 for Washington.
June 30, 2009 – Traded RHP Joel Hanrahan and OF Lastings Milledge to Pittsburgh for LPH Sean Burnett and OF Nyjer Morgan.
Outcome: Some of this was baggage-for-baggage, and Morgan’s “Tony Plush” act – initially refreshing, quickly tiresome – played out after a year-and-a-half. Hanrahan developed into a two-time All-Star for Pittsburgh in 2011-12, when he saved 76 games. But the key return for the Nats was Burnett, who became their lockdown lefty and seventh-inning man on the 2012 NL East champs; in four years in Washington, he had a 2.81 ERA.
July 31, 2009 – Traded 1B Nick Johnson to Florida for LHP Aaron Thompson. Traded LHP Joe Beimel to Colorado for RHP Ryan Mattheus and RHP Robinson Fabian.
Outcomes: Johnson was the Nationals’ original first baseman, but he was hurt so often that he couldn’t fully realize his enormous hitting potential. Thompson was eventually claimed off waivers and has bounced around. But Mattheus became a key reliever on the 2012 NL East champs, the winning pitcher in Game 1 of the division series against St. Louis.
July 29, 2010 – Traded RP Matt Capps to Minnesota for C Wilson Ramos and LHP Joe Testa
Outcome: Though the oft-injured Ramos has played more than 88 games in a season only once for the Nats, Twins fans still rue this trade because the heir apparent to Joe Mauer wears a Washington uniform – and, indeed, is penciled in to be the starter again in 2015. Rizzo signed Capps for one year and $3.5 million. He became an All-Star for the Nats, then an outstanding trade chip.
July 30, 2010 – Traded SS Cristian Guzman to Texas for RHP Tanner Roark and RHP Ryan Tatsuko.
Outcome: Guzman, the Nats’ original shortstop, had been an All-Star in 2008, but managed just 15 games for the Rangers – and then never played pro ball again. Tatsuko topped out at Class AAA, but Roark became a classic baseball success story, rising from Class AA at the time of the trade, going 6-17 for Harrisburg in 2012, but becoming an essential part of Washington’s rotation in 2014, when he went 15-10 with a 2.85 ERA.
Dec. 16, 2010 – Traded OF Josh Willingham to Oakland for OF Corey Brown and RP Henry Rodriguez.
Outcome: Given his 100-mph fastball, Rodriguez was worth the risk, though his time in Washington was marked by control problems: 83 walks in 113 innings, good for a gruesome 1.504 WHIP, and he was dealt midseason 2013 to the Cubs. Willingham played only one season in Oakland before signing as a free agent with Minnesota, and he just retired this offseason. Brown has bounced around, and just signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay, where he’ll fight for a spot as a backup.
Jan. 19, 2011 – Traded OF Michael Burgess, LHP Graham Hicks and RHP A.J. Morris to the Chicago Cubs for LHP Tom Gorzelanny.
Outcome: Gorzelanny became a useful spot starter and lefty long man out of the pen who made the playoff roster in 2012. None of the three players dealt away has made the majors.
March 27, 2011 – Traded OF Nyjer Morgan to Milwaukee for IF/OF Cutter Dykstra.
Outcome: Morgan became something of the face of the NL Central champion Brewers in 2011, but the following year he petered out and ended up signing in Japan. Dykstra, now 25, is still in the Nats’ system and played last year at Class AA Harrisburg, where he hit .274.
July 30, 2011 – Traded RHP Jason Marquis to Arizona for IF Zach Walters.
Outcome: Marquis got hurt after the deadline deal, and Walters rose through the Washington system to make his big league debut with the Nationals – though he’d become important in another trade down the line.
Dec. 23, 2011 – Traded RHP A.J. Cole, LHP Tommy Milone, C Derek Norris and RHP Brad Peacock to Oakland for LHP Gio Gonzalez and RHP Robert Gilliam.
Outcome: A franchise-shaping trade. Gonzalez, who had struggled with control problems in Oakland, into the rotation, but he went 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA in 2012, becoming the Game 1 starter in the postseason (after the Stephen Strasburg shutdown). The Nats also signed him to a club-friendly five-year, $42-million extension. The Nats, in turn, gave up quality: Norris was an All-Star in 2014, though there’s no guarantee he’s the Athletics’ catcher of the future. Milone and Peacock could end up in the rotations of Minnesota and Houston, respectively, in 2015. And more on Cole to come.
Nov. 29, 2012 – Traded RHP Alex Meyer to Minnesota for OF Denard Span.
Outcome: The Nationals had searched for a true center fielder and leadoff hitter since landing in Washington, and coming off a division title, Rizzo finally got one – though he had to part with the 6-foot-9, hard-throwing Meyer, the Nats’ 2011 first-round pick. Meyer, who turns 25 next month, hasn’t reached the majors and went 7-7 with a 3.52 ERA in Class AAA last season. Span led the NL in hits in 2014, when he hit .302 and scored 94 runs – and seems like a bargain at $9 million for 2015.
Aug. 3, 2012 – Traded C/1B David Freitas to Oakland for C Kurt Suzuki.
Outcome: This deal, in which Suzuki had to pass through waivers, gave the Nationals significant insurance entering the pennant race, when Ramos was out because of an injury. Suzuki caught 43 games the rest of the way and was the starter in the playoffs – and was then dealt back to Oakland the following August (and has since become an All-Star with Minnesota). Freitas hasn’t yet made the majors.
Jan. 16, 2013 – Traded 1B/OF Michael Morse to Seattle for RP Ian Krol and RHP Blake Treinin and A.J. Cole from Oakland.
Outcome: The three-team deal unloaded Morse, who had no position in Washington once Adam LaRoche was re-signed and the outfield was full with Span, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth. Treinin and Cole remain two of the Nationals’ top pitching prospects, candidates for the rotation in 2016 at the latest. Krol made it to the majors with Washington – and was used in a deal to come.
Dec. 2, 2013 – Traded RP Ian Krol, RHP Robbie Ray and IF/OF Steve Lombardozzi to Detroit for RHP Doug Fister.
Outcome: Fister went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in his first season for the Nats, in which a season-opening injury limited him to 25 starts, and he’ll be a key member of the 2015 rotation as well. Lombardozzi was dealt to Baltimore, Ray, the key prospect in the deal, was subsequently traded to Arizona this offseason, and Krol had a 4.95 ERA in 45 relief appearances for the Tigers last season.
July 31, 2014 – Traded IF Zach Walters to Cleveland for IF Asdrubal Cabrera.
Outcome: With 3B/LF Ryan Zimmerman out because of a hamstring injury, the Nationals badly needed a replacement, and Rizzo pursued the veteran Cabrera to play second base (allowing Anthony Rendon to move back to third). Cleveland agreed to pay the remaining $3.5 million of his salary, and Cabrera played better than his numbers — .229 average, .700 OPS – might indicate. Walters will be a candidate to make the Indians out of spring training.
Dec. 17, 2014 – Traded OF Steven Souza Jr. and RHP Taylor Ott to Tampa Bay and received in return from San Diego RHP Joe Ross and a player to be named later, expected to be SS Trea Turner.
Outcome: TBD all around, but Nationals scouts loved Turner out of N.C. State in this year’s draft and feel Ross has improved since his draft days out of high school, with a better breaking ball and a smoother delivery. Souza may indeed be a late bloomer and could excel in Tampa, but he was blocked in Washington and needed to move to get a true major league chance.
April 2009, traded minor-league RHP Kyle Gunderson to Florida for RHP Logan Kensing. Neither made the majors.
December 2009, received RHP Brian Bruney from the New York Yankees for a player to be named later, who turned out to be OF Jamie Hoffman.
February 2011, traded OF Justin Maxwell to the New York Yankees for RHP Adam Olbrychowski. Maxwell has struggled to stay in the majors and just signed as a free agent with San Francisco. Olbrychowski pitched 2014 for Class AA Harrisburg.
March 2011, traded IF Alberto Gonzalez to San Diego for RHP Erik Davis. Davis made the majors in 2013 but missed all of 2014 with elbow surgery.
July 2011, traded LHP Chris Manno and 1B/OF Bill Rhinehart to Cincinnati for OF Jonny Gomes. Gomes played 43 games for Washington with little impact before leaving for free agency. Neither of the others has reached the majors, with Manno having returned to the Washington organization.
July 2011, traded IF/OF Jerry Hairston to Milwaukee for OF Erik Komatsu. Komatsu was eventually lost in the Rule 5 draft, returned to Washington, then released in May 2014.
December 2011, traded RHP Collin Balester to Detroit for RHP Ryan Perry. Perry, a former first-rounder, reached the majors with Washington but was released in July.
June 2013, traded RP Henry Rodriguez to the Chicago Cubs for RHP Ian Dickson. Dickson spent 2014 at high Class A Potomac, going 5-9 with a 4.37 ERA.
July 2013, traded RHP Ivan Pinyero to the Chicago Cubs for OF Scott Hairston. Pinyero made only 15 appearances in the Cubs’ minor leagues last year. Hairston hit .215 as a backup for a season-and-a-half.
August 2013, traded IF David DeJesus to Tampa Bay for a player to be named later, who turned out to be LHP Matthew Spann. DeJesus, a waiver claim from the Cubs, was with the Nats just four days. Span spent last year at high Class A Potomac.
November 2013, traded RP Fernando Abad to Oakland for IF/OF John Wooten. Abad had an outstanding 2014 for Oakland, posting a 1.57 ERA in 69 appearances out of the bullpen. Wooten reached high Class A Potomac, hitting .293 with an .809 OPS at three minor-league levels.
December 2013, traded OF Billy Burns to Oakland for LHP Jerry Blevins. Burns is a speedster who may not be able to hit enough to stay in the majors. Blevins appeared in 64 games in 2014 and is under contract again in 2015.
February 2014, traded RHP Nate Karns to Tampa Bay for C Jose Lobaton, OF Drew Vettleson and LHP Felipe Rivero. Lobaton became the Nats’ backup catcher. Karns had a 5.08 ERA at Class AAA in 2014.
December 2014, traded LHP Ross Detwiler to Texas for 2B Derrick Bostick and RHP Abel Del Los Santos. Detwiler, a former member of the rotation, didn’t enjoy his bullpen assignment in 2014 and wanted a fresh start. The Nationals got two minor leaguers in exchange.