Q&A With Mike Rizzo
So, here's the full let's-begin-the-offseason Q&A with GM Mike Rizzo. If you want the microwave version, here goes: 1) Rizzo seems to want a veteran baseball guy as his next manager. 2) He doesn't believe Bryce Harper is the surefire No. 1 pick in 2010, as Stephen Strasburg was this year. 3) He wants to add more major league and international scouts. 4) He still seems hopeful that Jesus Flores can be the team's No. 1 catcher next year.
Q: Once the offseason begins, what's your first order of business?
On Monday, what we're going to do, we're going to start the process of filling some of our holes in the front office. Start filling some positions. Which means calling for permission to speak to people, interviewing people for a handful of jobs -- assistant GM, farm director, those types of jobs. That's the first order of business.
Q: Will you guys pretty much just fill the openings you already have, or could there be a restructuring of the job titles, responsibilities and all that?
There will almost certainly be an adjustment of job titles and positions and that type of thing.
Q: Do you need to expand the manpower of the scouting department?
I've never turned down an opportunity to add people to the organization. We're very comfortable where we're at on the amateur side. We feel that we could add a few more professional major league scouts on that side of it. And internationally, we have to increase our manpower there.
Q: What's the latest with your decisions about finding a new home [for a scouting facility] in the Dominican?
What we've solidified is, we've narrowed the academy sites and contractors down to two companies and two sites. So we're just trying to see which deal works best. We're going to make a deal and start construction in the near future.
Q: You talked about not believing the managerial search is going to be a really long, drawn-out process. How quickly, because you're also dealing with some of these other things, do you get into that?
Well we're going to begin immediately after the season. We don't know who we're going to ask for permission to talk to. So it could be determined by who that person is and if they're in the playoffs and if we get permission while they're in the playoffs; sometimes that's a ticklish situation where they don't want to be taken away from the team if they're in the NLCS or ALCS. So you have to wait on that. So that's a little bit out of our control. We're going to begin talking to people right after the season, until we get things where we feel comfortable.
Q: Do you have a rough idea of how many people you're going to interview or look at?
No, I don't.
Q: In broad terms, what kind of traits are you looking for for the next manager?
I want him to be a well-rounded baseball guy. Obviously he has to be a strategic-type manager that's really good with the X's and O's. Knows how to handle a pitching staff. Has the respect of the players on the field and in the clubhouse. We want a communicator who's out amongst the players with an open-door policy. And a guy who has a passion for it and lives and breathes the game.
Q: Is past major league managing experience important?
Um, yeah, I'd say it's important. It's a key. But it's not the end-all and be-all. There's good baseball guys who have been in the game their whole lives who just haven't had the manager's title or the managing job at the big league level.
Q: When you first came in 2006, you talked a lot about the Pacific Rim. Are there any plans to sign anyone from there?
You know, we have our scouts and evaluators in the Pacific Rim. Depending on what our needs are, if there's a player that is a free agent that fits our needs, we're certainly open to do that. But we have increased our evaluation of players in the Pacific Rim. From '06 to now, we have increased our exposure over there.
Q: Switching subjects a bit, you guys are going to have a lot of arbitration-eligible players. How is that going to play out?
Well, I think they all come down to baseball [and not financial] decisions. The decisions with arbitration guys are: What can you bring in for the arbitration slot that can improve your team, or are you better off with the player you have right now? We have a lot of arbitration cases, but we're going to take them on an individual basis and kind of weigh which ones are important. I think we have 11 or 12.
Q: You also have a lot of big salaries that are coming off the books. Do you feel that this is almost a fresh start?
Yeah. I think it helps that we're not locked into bad long-term contracts. Certainly it helps. It gives you the opportunity to kind of look over the landscape and do what's best in the long-term, big view picture of what we're trying to do, not only in 2010 and beyond.
Q: Last year, you guys finished with the worst record and it was almost a given you'd draft Stephen Strasburg. Next year's draft, is it a given that Bryce Harper is your guy?
No. I'm just saying it's not a given. I haven't seen him yet, and he certainly hasn't separated himself like Strasburg did last year.
Q: Scott Olsen. Any report on how his rehab has started, and what is your thinking about his arbitration case? Because that is a guy you'll have to make a decision on.
Yeah. We get a report on him every day. He's on his throwing program down in Florida. He's progressing normally. We're going to have to watch him throughout the offseason and watch where he's at to make the decision to tender or non-tender him.
Q: So that's a case where you're gonna have to see some sort of physical improvement?
Certainly. Don't you think so?
Q: Well, there are some guys you'd say, 'Yeah, we know he's gonna be fine for 2010.' But with him there are more questions there. That's what I'm getting at.
Well sure. A left-handed pitcher with a left-handed shoulder injury who hasn't pitched in three months -- you certainly need to see where he's at health-wise to render the decision on that.
Q: Has this year been another reminder that a good organization doesn't just need five pitchers or six or even seven, but ten? And veterans. The depth is equally important to the star power.
Well, you hear me say all the time, 'You need inventory in your system.' And that's what we strive for -- to be deep in each and every position, and to have an inventory of good, solid, major league-caliber pitchers in the organization. I think we have nine starters this year? Ten starters this year? So, I mean, you're dipping into your depth all the time with injuries and non-performance and that type of thing. That's why it's good to have quality, major league-caliber pitchers that have options that give you some flexibility to do things.
Q: Would you feel comfortable at this point entering 2010 with Mike MacDougal as the closer?
I think he's done a great job. He's a guy that we scouted -- we did a good job scouting him and signing him when the White Sox let him go, and he's done a nice job for us.
Q: So following on the inventory-type thinking, is closer a spot where you would at least need a fall-back option?
Well, you can talk to the Mets about that. You can talk to the Braves about that. You better have options; you better have a back-up plan, if not a back-up player. Building bullpens, it's very fickle. Probably the most fickle part of building a major league club is the bullpen. Guys have a tendency to really take steps forward and backward on a year-to-year basis. You know, Brad Lidge is a prime example. [The Phillies] went to the whip with Lidge, won the World Series, and then you come to another year and obviously you're penciling in that this guy is gonna have such-and-such a year and it doesn't happen. So now what do you have to do? You have to make adjustments, and you have to adjust on the fly, and that's what they've done. They have an inventory at that position where they have a Myers or a Madson that can maybe not be a Lidge of 2008, but a viable option there. So yeah, the good teams have depth at each position and you better have a Plan B.
Q: The other position that could be intriguing for the offseason is catcher. How do you play that, not knowing if Flores can return from his labrum injury?
Well, you know, I'm going to rely on the medical staff when they tell me that Flo should be 100-percent by spring training. So I'm going to rely on him to be our everyday guy. When he's playing, he's an everyday-caliber catcher. And we're going to look at our options for a second and a third catcher to give us some competition in spring training and to ensure us that if Flo is not ready to play we'll have a viable Plan B.
Q: Is there a little more thinking that you need somebody who, if needed, could be more of an everyday guy? Like, this year you had two career back-ups who had to play more than they were used. Do you need someone who could play more on an everyday basis?
Yeah. I like the season that those two -- and I agree with your assessment on Wil [Nieves] and Josh [Bard]; they're back-up catchers. But Wil has had a solid year. A back-up catcher who's hitting .260 and plays defense like him, that's a good back-up. But you're supposed to put players in positions to succeed, and it's tough for guys to do things that they haven't done in the past. We're looking to upgrade all of our positions, and catcher would be one of them. Like I said, we're counting on Flo being our guy every day, and we're going to see what options are out there in the market to improve ourselves. But like I said, Wil and Josh have done an exceptional job for us in a pinch, so we do have that.
Q: Looking at where this organization was in February, how do you compare it to now?
I definitely see progress. I see a bullpen that, to me, is clearly more stable than it was when we were in spring training and the beginning of the year all the way up to the first half of the year. I see starting pitchers that, what they have learned is that they belong in the big leagues. I'm going to take Garrett Mock's last start, last couple starts, as a positive. Ross Detwiler's last couple starts as a positive. We'll go into the spring with that and make our plans accordingly. I see a team that's played much cleaner, much better, much more fundamentally sound baseball the last half of the season, and pitchers that have performed better. And a roster that's much more flexible. So yeah, I've seen a lot of progress.
Q: Even though most people would say, 'Yeah, this organization is probably better off than it was a year ago,' at what point do you think it is important that the record reflects the progress.
It's all about the record. It's all about the wins. We like to see progress, and building this thing is gonna take time, but ultimately we're here to win games. On this level -- the only level I care about whether we win or lose is the major league level. Everything else down there is all development. I'm not satisfied with our won-loss record. I don't think anybody in this organization is. We're going to make plans to improve that record next year. And like I've said in the past, all the decisions I make are for 2010 and beyond. We can't be short-sighted and just look at a snapshot of 2010.
Q: Are you satisfied with Dukes in right field for next year, or will you explore other options?
Well, again, we're going to always look at other options, but yeah, I think he's found a home in right field, and defensively he's a solid defensive right fielder. He's a guy who drives in runs. He's an RBI guy. Even with his low batting average he has a high on-base percentage. And he drives in important runs. Yeah, I'd like to see the power return that he had earlier this year and last year, but again, he's a young player. The league has adjusted to him and he's got to make an adjustment to the league. But I think he's come a long way -- on the field, off the field, being a good teammate. I think he's found a home in right field, where before we were kind of bouncing him around... I think once he's locked in in right field he'll get more locked in at the plate, and with that said, I think he's had a nice year for himself. I don't think he's satisfied with the year he's had, but we see him being more productive in the future. But I've seen a lot of strides in Elijah Dukes.
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