WASHINGTON — Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Nationals bullpen is not good.
You know it, I know it, the entire league knows it and, sure enough, Mike Rizzo knows it. The Nationals GM was rather forthright when the subject was brought up during his recent appearance with ESPN’s Buster Olney on the podcast Blame Game.
Here’s how the conversation went:
Buster Olney: “You’ll be one of the most talked-about people in the month of July. A lot of people [are] anticipating you might try to make a move [to address] that bullpen. What do you see in that market right now?”
Mike Rizzo: “Right now we’re just kinda testing the market. I’ve talked to a lot of my fellow general managers just kinda to see where the market is right now. It’s no secret that we’re gonna be looking for upgrades in the bullpen. With that said, people aren’t going to want to help us out of the goodness of their hearts, so we’re going to have to look to see what deal makes sense for us long-term and short-term and see if we can do our part — do my part — to improve the ballclub.”
BO: “Is your focus gonna be on getting someone who’s necessarily a closer, or is it literally just bullpen depth, just best available arm?”
MR: “It’s going to be a fluid decision. We’re gonna have to see what’s available and what the cost is. That’s always the issue, supply and demand at this time of the year is always what it comes down to. We’ve shown that we’ve been willing to pull the trigger and do deals at the last couple of trade deadlines. I don’t see that being any different right now.
“We have to make good, prudent moves. We’re a good team. The good thing is we have a good team and we know what our flaws are, we’re pretty clear and we’re going to have a strategy to see if we can improve it.”
BO: “Peers say you have arguably the best trade record of any general manager in baseball. Billy Beane once told me he loved making trades with you, he said you’re pretty direct, pretty up-front. How do you like to make trades?”
MR: “To me, making trades is a personal business. I like to call people on the phone, do it person-to-person so I can get a feel for what the other general manager is doing. I think that we’ve shown over the past couple of years that you have to give to get. This can’t be a zero-sum trade. I think the best trades are the trades are [when] I get what I need and the team that’s trading with me gets what they want and we’re both satisfied and happy with it. Those, I think, are the best trades. It lends to return business.
“I think that’s important, to have a rapport, a reputation with the other GMs that we’re gonna be fair, we’re not going to try to do something that’s unbalanced. We’ve shown that we’ve been aggressive in the past. We feel that we evaluate ourselves fairly well. I’ve got a really good staff of professional scouts that are out there grinding every day trying to give me the information to make a good trade that helps the franchise.”
The conversation between Rizzo and Olney continues for several more minutes, and they cover additional, less specific topics such as Rizzo’s decision-making process, his affinity for making trades and what the deadline will look like this year.
Rizzo also gushes about Ryan Zimmerman, who was named to his second All-Star Game this weekend, calling him “the epitome of class and professionalism,” and speculates about how the Nationals will replace some of their many injured players.
The full podcast is available here. Rizzo’s interview begins around the 26-minute mark.