Since taking over the reigns at the General Manager of the Washington Nationals during the 2009 season, the organization has made a slow but steady climb from among the worst teams in the National League to among the best. It’s been a patient, but deliberate path towards bringing the organization into respectability and if last season’s playoff run is any indication – the process has worked.
Rizzo has been working on a five year contract that he agreed to following the 2010 season. Considering his lack of experience, the deal was constructed entirely in the team’s favor and included a pair of club options, one of which was exercised for the 2014 season in April by Nationals ownership. Rizzo was locked up at a time when he had no leverage and sits among the worst paid GMs in all of baseball, but as his stock has risen there has been little traction towards negotiating a new contract extension that would pay him anything remotely considered “market value”. Instead he is forced to ignore his own lack of job security.
Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post recently sat down to examine Rizzo’s contract situation – taking note of the team’s improved on-field performance, increased revenues, and public image turnaround – and talked with a few who know him well, Scott Boras and Nationals owner Mark Lerner, to gain some further perspective on where contract talks stand. It would seem, according to quotes from Lerner, that talks haven’t even gotten started:
We’re obviously talking extension with him … when everybody has the time to sit down in a room – it’s tough during the season. We’ll get it done. There’s no doubt in my mind. I know Mike wants it. We want it. We’re optimistic it’ll all happen in due course. There’s no news.
Washington holds an option that would also cover the 2015 season, but there’s a chance that simply exercising their option for 2014 might have created a rift between Rizzo and ownership. The move could be viewed as a sign that the organization isn’t ready to commit to Rizzo in the financial manner that he’s likely earned at this point. Repeating the move a year from now with the other option could potentially push Rizzo to leave at the end of the contract. If Washington is going to commit an extension to Mike Rizzo – as they likely should – then the time may be now to begin discussions.
Continuity has helped turn a franchise that lost 297 games over three seasons into the 2012 Division Champions. Keeping Rizzo at the helm of the ship could be a big key towards getting the organization to that next step.