Mike Rizzo spent his first five years with the Washington Nationals painstakingly assembling a roster designed to make the club competitive enough to win a World Series.
That vision became a reality in 2019 when the star-laden Nationals won the franchise’s only championship.
In the midst of another top-to-bottom overhaul designed to produce another parade through downtown D.C., the longtime general manager is not in the mood to move on.
Neither, it seems, are his bosses.
Washington signed Rizzo to a multiyear extension on Wednesday that will give the 62-year-old a chance to see if history can repeat itself.
“We’ve gone through our share of losing,” said Rizzo, who joined the team’s front office in 2007 and was promoted to general manager two years later. “But it’s all worth it for that 8-10-year run of excellence and competitiveness.”
Details were not released, but Rizzo said he plans to remain in Washington for “a long, long time.”
The Nationals edged Houston in seven taut games in the 2019 World Series and then went almost immediately into a makeover, trading the likes of Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Juan Soto to give the club’s prospect pool a needed talent influx.
Some of that talent has started to arrive. Though Washington could be headed toward a fifth straight last-place finish in the NL East, the Nationals are a respectable 29-26 since the All-Star break heading into Wednesday night’s game at Pittsburgh. They have already won 10 more games this season (65) than they did in 2022 (55).
Shortstop C.J. Abrams, acquired in the deal that sent Soto to San Diego, has hit 18 homers and is flourishing defensively. MacKenzie Gore, who came over in the same deal, has been solid if not spectacular in his first season as a major league starting pitcher. Fellow rookie Jake Irvin has improved as the year has gone on, posting a 2.12 ERA over his last five starts. Jackson Rutledge, a first-round pick by Washington in 2018, will make his major league debut on the mound Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s a successful season, but it’s very encouraging,” Rizzo said. “Nobody aims to win 70 games in a season, they want to win 90 games in a season. So that’s our goal. That’s always been our goal but this is a good step in the right direction to that and I’m really excited about what’s coming down the pike.”
Rizzo’s extension comes after he signed manager Davey Martinez to a deal that runs through the 2025 season.
“It was important to get Davey done,” Rizzo said. “Because of the chemistry in the clubhouse and a lame-duck manager with three months (left on his contract) is not the way you want to go through this thing and grind it out and teaching players and developing players at the big league level.”
Rizzo added he was “always comfortable” that he would stay with the Nationals, who finished with a winning record every season and made the playoffs five times between 2012-19.
Those rosters were stocked with a mix of young homegrown players like Soto and pitcher Stephen Strasburg, and veterans like Scherzer who came in to help put the Nationals over the top.
It’s unclear whether Rizzo will be given the freedom to spend in free agency to help Washington close the gap with NL East rivals Atlanta and Philadelphia. He did, however, dismiss the idea that the Lerner family, which has owned the Nationals since 2006, is looking to get out of the baseball business.
“They’re looking forward to coming out the other end and start being a contender in this league,” Rizzo said. “I see no evidence whatsoever (of them) being half in/half out. They’re all in, they want to win and I have no thought process on them getting rid of the team and wanting to sell it.”
Only two players remain on the 40-man roster from Washington’s World Series-winning team: veteran pitcher Patrick Corbin and Strasburg, who went undefeated during the 2019 postseason and was named World Series MVP.
There had been reports last week that Strasburg — who has not pitched since 2022 due to injuries — was going to hold a retirement news conference. No news conference ever materialized, leading to speculation that Strasburg and the Nationals were fighting over the money owed on the remainder of his $245-million contract.
Rizzo called the speculation “much ado about nothing,” saying there are protocols stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement that need to be followed and both sides are working through that.
“It was, you know, an unnecessary controversy,” Rizzo said. “You know, it was initiated by a lot of miscommunication, a lot of misinformation. So I think it’s unfortunate and I think it was unnecessary.”
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