The Nationals are in the midst of a disappointing follow-up campaign to their National League East title from last year, but general manager Mike Rizzo isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he’s getting promoted.
The team announced this evening that Rizzo has signed a new long-term contract and has been promoted to the new title of GM and President of Baseball Operations. The length of the new contract isn’t yet known, but the Nationals already picked up his option for 2014 earlier this year.
Here’s a statement from Nationals owner Ted Lerner:
“Upon purchasing the Nationals, Mike Rizzo was our first hire and he has performed brilliantly. We started with an idea about how baseball teams should be built and he translated it into a reality far faster than many could have imagined. He knows the game, the players, and is a true professional. Under his direct leadership, the Nationals have become one of the most exciting and respected young teams in baseball.”
Rizzo joined the organization in 2007 as an assistant GM and took over the main job after Jim Bowden resigned in March of 2009. The Nationals lost 103 games that year, but it didn’t take long for them to get on the path to respectability. While Rizzo was fortunate enough to be in position to draft Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper No. 1 overall in back-to-back years, he also made multiple key trades and signings en route an MLB-best 98 wins last year.
Of course, things haven’t been as rosy since Strasburg’s controversial shutdown. After being ousted in the NLDS by the Cardinals last October, the Nationals have disappointed with a 52-56 record this season, putting them 11 games behind the first-place Braves and 7 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot. Just last week, hitting coach Rick Eckstein was fired against the wishes of manager Davey Johnson while Tyler Clippard criticized the organization’s handling of former closer Drew Storen. However, today’s announcement leaves little doubt that ownership feels the franchise is in the right hands for the long-term.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.
The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.