Q: Rizzo signing and the clubhouse
As a Nats fan, I'm thrilled that the Lerners have re-signed Mike Rizzo, but I'm curious: What effect did the long wait to get this done (or to publicly pronounce that it was a priority) have not only on the front office but on the clubhouse? Was this important to players or was it not high on their radar screens? Thanks for these chats!

A: Thomas Boswell
I'm certain that the LONG delay distracted the whole organization, including players. This was at least six months overdue. It was a huge topic of conversation throughout the season, even in spring training.

The Nats are a smart veteran team and, in many cases, a big part of why they are so comfortable in DC --either coming here or wanting to stay-- is their sense that nobody in MLB runs a better organization, top to bottom, than Rizzo. Are a few others also exceptional? Absolutely. But is he an "A" --yes. And I've heard that one-on-one from Harper and Rendon, even though they left, who were effusive about his impact on their careers, as well as Max, Stras, Zim, Werth, LaRoche and EVERY team leader during the '12-'19 period. This has been Rizo's Team --and there has been enormous confidence that, within season or season-to-season, Rizzo could fix problems. Even a Papelbon-Harper fight, or losing Harper. Whatever --just give Mike time and the resources and "we'll be a 92-to-98 win team again soon."

I think you'll see the Nats --even though their 3-4-5 hittrs on Sunday behind Max were Brock Holt, Suzuki and Josh Harrison-- play better baseball now that Rizzo is extended and Martinez is certain to be here through '22 (imo) at least and, if Rizzo has the last word, maybe through '23, too. I'd tear up Martinez option deal for $1.2-M for '21 and give hima two-year contract, at market price for a very good manager, for '21-'22. I'd guess his market price is $3-to-$4M a year. But I'm not good on manager contracts. Don't pay as much attention to them as I might. A VERY good deal --like one Girardi got a few years ago ('14-'7) with the Yanks was a four-year extension for $16M total.

I'd say that the Lerners were among the Nats Most Valuable Palyers in '19 --especially with the Corbin deal and several years of payrolls at or near the lux tax. I'd say bthat they have been among the Nats Least Valuable Players --along with the SP-- for causing so much absolutely unnecessary worry and distraction about whether they would blow up the organization by somehow losing Rizzo --and all the people who would have followed him in the next 1-2-3 years to wherever he ended up.

The Nats have manageable needs to get back up to 90+ win level --with (as we say every year) normal health.

They need One Starting Pitcher (4th starter --which isn't hard to get) and One Impact Hitter (who can bat 5th, that'll be a fairly costly but not mega-FA). Other than that, the usual 3-or-4 bits and pieces.

Rizzo can probably do that with his eyes closed. And a three-year extension gives potential future Nats confidence that he'll be around for a while.

BTW: Can I hear Three Cheers for "Deferred Money in Free Agent Contracts!" Whule I'm kicking the Lerner shins for one thing, lets note how well --in these financially uncertain pandemic times-- it's worked out to have half of Scherzer's $30M in '21 deferred into the future. Also, at least 25% of Strasburg's $245M deal is deferred. That is going to help in '21-'22 when a lot of teams are going to look at their payrolls and have a heart attack because, even if they think the industry will return to health eventually, what about the near-term and even mid-term? When do big crowds come back? And how big will they be? 85% or 95% of the old crowds? Saying "00%, or 105% because of 'pent-up-demand' is very optimistic.

The mega deals of recent year, with no money deferred is going to weigh heavy on some teams. Patrick Corbin's $140 deal has been described by some as "insanely backloaded." That's probably exaggerated. But his annual salary progrssion, starting with '19 has ben reported as: $15M, $19M, $24M, $23M, $24M and $34M in '24 with NO interest on any deferred money.

Every $10M or $20M helps when you're trying to build a roster. That "deferred money" may end up paying for the one more Big Bat that you need for '21 --as long as that free agent will also accept a chunk of deferred money.

This is SOP for the Lerners. In the past, it has sometimes looked short-sighted, conservative. But in economic hard times "you don't find out who's swimming naked until the tide goes out." With deferred money the Nats have at least tried to keep their trunks on in an industry where Boras and others are always trying to pants you.

— SEP 08, 2020 12:42 PM


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