The Washington Nationals announced in a press release today that they have signed Mike Rizzo to a five-year extension while giving him a promotion to Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations:
“Mike Rizzo is unquestionably one of the best baseball minds in the game,” said Lerner. “He has a unique ability to see player talent for what it is, what it can be, and how it fits into building a team. Mike has been one of the architects of the rebuilding of the entire Nationals player system, from scouting, to player development, to big league signings. We believe the talent foundation we are establishing on and off the field will make the Nationals one of baseball’s most exciting teams over the next several seasons.”
In 2010, the Nationals increased their win total from 59 to 69. Washington’s 10-game improvement tied for the fourth-best in MLB this season and trailed only San Diego (+15), Cincinnati (+13) and Tampa Bay (+12), all three of which either qualified for the post-season or played games with post-season implications on the final day of the season.
Washington’s 2010 improvement can primarily be attributed to enhanced output from a bullpen and defense—both of which ranked last in MLB in 2009—that demanded Rizzo’s immediate attention during his initial off-season as General Manager.
Rizzo was up to the task as he pieced together a bullpen whose 3.33 ERA represented the fifth-best bullpen ERA reduction (-1.71) in MLB since 2000. Washington’s franchise-record 514 relief strikeouts ranked third in MLB. Defensively, the 2010 Nationals made 11 percent fewer errors compared to the 2009 version of the Nationals.
While the 2011 season will be Rizzo’s third at the helm of the Nationals’ baseball operations efforts, his stamp can be found throughout the organization that he joined on July 24, 2006.
Wielding a reputation and network that knows no bounds both inside and outside the industry, Rizzo’s presence in DC has attracted scouting, front-office and player-development talents such as Roy Clark (Assistant General Manager and Vice President of Player Personnel), Kris Kline (Scouting Director), Davey Johnson (Senior Advisor to the General Manager), Kasey McKeon (Director of Player Procurement), Bill Singer (Director of Pro Scouting) and Johnny DiPuglia (Director of International Scouting).
In four drafts with Rizzo serving either as General Manager or Vice President of Baseball Operations, the Nationals have twice spent more on the MLB First-Year Player Draft than any other club by adding premium and enduring talents such as right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg, outfielder Bryce Harper, right-handed pitcher Drew Storen, right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler and infielder Danny Espinosa. Washington’s 2010 draft haul included the signings of 25 of its top 26 selections.
The fruits of these drafts continue to rise to the surface, as in 2010, the Nationals’ seven affiliates combined to register their third consecutive winning campaign.
Rizzo has breathed new life into the Nationals’ international scouting efforts, which culminated in 2010 with the signings of right-handed pitchers Yunesky Maya and Rafael Martin. In the spring of 2009, Rizzo also oversaw the relocation of the Nationals’ Dominican operation to Boca Chica, which offers a state-of-the-art facility and nearly 20 teams residing within a three-mile radius.
While pledging to acquire talent through any means, Rizzo dipped into the traditional trade market to acquire catcher Wilson Ramos, outfielder Michael Morse, outfielder Nyjer Morgan and left-handed reliever Sean Burnett. It was Rizzo’s deft touch that led to the December 2009 signing of closer Matt Capps, who represented the Nationals in the 2010 All-Star Game before being dealt to the Twins for Ramos, who is widely viewed as one of the game’s premier catching prospects. In late August 2009, Rizzo also inked right-handed pitcher Livan Hernandez, who has since posted a 3.98 ERA, notched 28 quality starts in 41 starting assignments, worked a team-best 260.1 innings and signed a one-year extension with Washington for 2011. In addition, Rizzo’s additions of right-handed reliever Joel Peralta (minor-league free agent) and left-handed reliever Doug Slaten (via waivers) helped spark Washington’s aforementioned bullpen turnaround in 2010.”