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Posted at 11:20 AM ET, 12/15/2010

Mike Rizzo's letter to Nationals fans

By Adam Kilgore

phase 2.jpg

With the Nationals set to introduce Jayson Werth at a news conference today at Nationals Park, Mike Rizzo e-mailed a letter to Nationals fans about the signing and what it means, in his view, for the franchise. He returned to the the mantra he first uttered 10 days ago at the winter meetings, that the Nationals have moved into "Phase 2" of their development. Here are some of Rizzo's words:

Jayson's signing stunned the assembled baseball universe two weekends ago in Orlando. As fun as it was to make the announcement, the signing also ushered in Phase Two of our franchise's evolution where we add the key pieces that will help us compete for division titles and championships.
We still have work to do. I assure you that the Nationals baseball operations department will continue to work around the clock to find the very best prospects and impact players to grace the field of Nationals Park on Opening Day -- we look forward to seeing you there.

We could make jokes about how The Plan has made way for Phase Two, but the significant discussion revolves around what personnel moves could come next. The Nationals' most pressing need is at first base. Rizzo has been emphatic the Nationals' 2011 first baseman will come from outside the organization, which seemingly makes Adam LaRoche the favorite, with Derrek Lee also a possibility.

The Nationals are also looking for a back-of-the-bullpen reliever. There is a deep pool of free agent relievers still waiting to be signed, including Rafael Soriano, Bobby Jenks, Jesse Crain, Kerry Wood, Brian Fuentes, Chad Durbin, Todd Coffey and several other candidates who could pitch late innings.

The Nationals are also looking for another starting pitcher for the top of their rotation. They are trying to land an elite starter like Zack Greinke or Matt Garza in a trade, but that may be untenable giving the asking price. The best starter available is right-hander Carl Pavano, but at 34 he is not a long-term solution.

Once today's news conference ends, Werth won't be in the news again until spring training starts. When mid-February arrives, the Nationals' roster should look much, much different than it does right now.

By Adam Kilgore  | December 15, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
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Next: Live: Jayson Werth news conference


I think possibly more telling was the way Rizzo closed the letter.

"Happy holidays to all. I hope to be in touch again in the coming weeks…"

Ominous ellipses...

Posted by: BangZoom | December 15, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm a believer in Phase II. I know there will need to be a Phase III, but my perception and expectation of Phase II is that it takes the Nats out of last place, over .500, and positions them for additional acquisitions for 2012. To me Phase II = respectability. Phase III = Contention.

Posted by: natbiscuits | December 15, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

AK, the most pressing need is starting pitching, at least according to Rizzo, as you reported last week after they landed Werth: "Their main priorities remain starting pitching and first base, in that order. 'We've said all along starting pitching is first and foremost,' Rizzo said."

I got that Phase 2 email and it's lame (love the jersey btw). This keep on keeping on with us as we work so darn hard for you has lost its shine after 4+ years of them playing that card. Heading in the right direction is not good enough. Rizzo knows what they need -- Ace, LH 1B, Closer, bench -- they have payroll flexibility and lots of options and pathways to get what they need and they simply need to get it done between now and ST.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 15, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

What was Phase One again?

Posted by: ImWithStupid | December 15, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

The most pressing need is starting ACE pitcher. Pavano and Blanton do not qualify, do not meet the criteria. I wonder if Pavano could beat out Maya and Livo in ST 2011? And they already have Marquis? Pavano makes far less sense for Rizzo than a minor league contract for Matt Stairs. He can work with Marerro in Syracuse.

First base is only a problem because of the lack of left handed power in the line up. Bernadina permanently in left might address some of this but apparently they don't want to rely on him. Morse appears to address both aspects of first base but he is right handed.

It appears to be a choice between Zimmermann and a Grienke or Garza or Shields etc. Plus they are now competing with the Yankees and Rangers in the trade market.

I suspect the Nats choose Zimmermann. Looks like Phase II will just have to get what it needs from Phase I for now.

Posted by: periculum | December 15, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Sign Soriano.

Posted by: chillsonic | December 15, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

They could do worst platooning Morse and Bernadina while playing Willingham at first base. Willingham could move to left field against left handed pitching and Morse to first.

Posted by: periculum | December 15, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The minors system will be in decent shape after this years draft. So, come 2012, there will be a solid source of players other than free agency. Add a couple of FA pieces to the mix and we might have something going in 2012 or 2013.

Posted by: shanks1 | December 15, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Willingham to 1B might work, but it is a lot riskier than just getting a true 1B via either tarde or FA -- Josh has really not played there much at all.

I am not sure what they are waiting for as Pena, Dunn, Konerko and Overbay are all off the board. And LaRoche may be hard to get at this point (I think he goes back to AZ if he gets the chance at a decent deal). Maybe some kind of trade for a platoon partner for Morse at 1B could work -- Garrett Jones maybe?? One way or another, they've gotta get a lefty that they can play someplace that has 20+ HR power.

Posted by: dfh21 | December 15, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

peric, well summarized.
I wish we'd just wrap up the LaRoche negotiations, prefering we sign him of course.
By losing Guzman and Dunn and Capps, and adding Werth and raises for our arb eligible guys, we're still essentially unchanged in terms of payroll. So there's a ton of room to get to a reasonable, easily affordable, payroll.
Sign LaRoche, it may not be the *most* pressing need, but it's a need easily addressed.

Posted by: Sunderland | December 15, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

As hard as it is to accept, this is probably the most important year to exercise patience. It is NOT the time to trade zimmermann, espinosa and storen for greinke, as much as I would LOVE to have greinke. The ace everyone wants is strasburg and he'll be back...and the other pieces we have finally assembled have to be there around him to make it work.

Everyone is tired of waiting and waiting and waiting, but it's finally about to payoff, just not this year.

Posted by: WrongDog | December 15, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

They need to sign LaRoche. They need a left-handed batter in the lineup and they need a quality defensive first baseman to get Zimmerman, Desmond, and Espinosa in the habit of playing solid defensive baseball.

I expect that if they keep Willingham, he's going to see a lot more playing time in left than Bernadina. Bernadina will sub for Willingham aginst righties, for Morgan and Werth when they need a break.

They may not find an ACE this year. Better to not sign someone for too long and too much money if he does not fill the role.

Posted by: rb-freedom-for-all | December 15, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

My favorite part is that just as they're sending this email extolling athleticism who do they sign - Matt Stairs...

Posted by: truke | December 15, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps the assembled intellect can explain to me the rationale behind keeping Jordan Zimmermann and refusing to include him for Matt Garza or Zach Greinke. Added years of player control?? Of what, a possible no. 3 starter if he comes all the way back? Garza and Greinke are proven commodities--Garza more so, and both are top tier starters that Zimmermann could only hope to become. Phase II would dictate trading Zimmermann. The Plan says keep him.

Posted by: Juliasdad | December 15, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Well I understand that we are in phase 2 now, but I want to know how many phases are there?

Posted by: poeticfire | December 15, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Juliasdad, it’s all about cost and team control. Zimmermann won’t be a free agent until 2016 while Grienke is under contract for only two more years and he’ll be looking for Lee/CC money then, unless you work out an extension with the trade Grienke makes zero sense. Garza has a similar contract status as Zimmermann, although Garza starts being arb eligible in 2011 and Zimm in 2012. The difference for the reminder of their arb years is probably around 10 or 11 million dollars. BTW saying Zimmermann only has a ceiling of a #3 starter is being pretty conservative. Zimmermann has the stuff to be a potential staff ace and while banking on his full recovery carries a risk, there’s a reason that so many other teams start off by asking for him. I’m certain that if Zimmermann was all it took to get Grienke or Garza everyone would jump at it. But Zimmermann would be the key piece to a three or four piece puzzle that a rebuilding team just cannot afford.

Posted by: noahthek | December 15, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I am unphased by this news.

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 15, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

I am unphased by this news.

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 15, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

The Nats pitching staff outside of 2 guys is TERRIBLE. They have NO CHANCE of winning a thing

So they need pitchers BADLY

Get Garza, Get Grienke, etc....

Posted by: Bious | December 15, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

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