Nats GM Rizzo on LaRoche deal; possible Morse trade
Mike Rizzo wrapped up a conference call with reporters a short while ago, the Nationals general manager addressing a variety of topics including the re-signing of Adam LaRoche, the possible trade of Michael Morse and the club's need (or perhaps not) for another left-handed reliever.
Here's the full transcript of the conference call. And a programming note: Rizzo will be joining me and Julie Donaldson on Comcast SportsNet at 6 p.m., so if you'd like to hear more of what he has to say on these subjects, please tune in...
Q: How good is it to get LaRoche back?
"Adam was a huge part of our success last year. He does a lot of things for us. He balances our lineup, he's a middle-of-the-lineup bat, he's a run producer, he's a terrific defensive player and beyond that he's a great clubhouse presence. A quiet leader who is very, very well-respected in the clubhouse."
Q: Was there a particular breakthrough that allowed the deal to get completed?
"Well, I think we had pretty tight parameters of what the deal on our end was going to be like. We were patient with Adam and his representatives to see what was out there for him. And at the end of the day, I think we both agreed that this was the best place for Adam to be, and this was a contract that satisfied Adam and worked for us. At the end of the day, at this particular time, I think it just fit for us."
Q: Did you ever think you wouldn't get him back?
"We were in a pretty enviable position, negotiating-wise, because our other option was already under contract and in-house. That was what allowed us to be so patient with Adam. That, and the fact that my respect for Adam LaRoche -- his skill-set, his time in the big leagues and his family -- is second to none. So I wanted to do right by him and we wanted to wait, because he was the guy we identified as the guy we really wanted on the ballclub."
Q: Did you ever set an actual deadline?
"I think we both were getting tired of the process. We had a lot of conversations back and forth with his representatives. Adam and I had a few private conversations with each other, and I think we both realized ... and I made it clear to Adam: 'It's time to get this thing done. Make a decision. Our offer is what it is. It's been on the table for a while. It's time to think of your options and pull the trigger. And if you want to be here, let's get this thing done, because we have other business to move on to.' He agreed. He wasn't enjoying the process, and wanted to make a decision so his family knew where they were going to be at for the foreseeable future."
Q: Is there a scenario in which Morse could stay on the roster, or do you feel like he deserves to be an everyday player somewhere?
"Mike's an everyday, middle-of-the-lineup hitter. We see him that way. I think the industry sees him that way. He's a guy that, financially, we don't have to move. We'd move him in the right deal. We're certainly not going to give him away, but if we can make the right deal that works for Mike and works for us as a franchise, we're certainly going to do that deal."
Q: Did you think anyone else would offer him three years?
"I thought it was a possibility. He's a terrific player coming off a terrific year, and the market for that kind of player is huge. It did cross our minds. But again, we thought we had -- and we were being really honest with Adam and his people that this was about us having a good in-house backup plan that we didn't really have to worry about if a team was going to overwhelm Adam and he was going to go there -- we had Plan B in place but all along. Adam was our first choice and our Plan A."
Q: Is it your preference to do something with Morse before spring training begins?
"There's not going to be a time limit on what we're going to do, if we're going to do it or when we're going to do it. These things kind of take a life of their own. If we can get the right deal for Mike, we'll certainly think about trading him. But we're not going to make a bad deal just to move the player out of town. We don't have to do it financially. We're going to have to do what's best for the organization."
Q: Did you think the new CBA and draft compensation rules would affect LaRoche's market?
"I really didn't think that would depress the market. He's a great player and there were teams that he filled what they were looking for. It was more of the fact that we had a good, in-house replacement than it was any CBA decision that was being made."
Q: Has interest in Morse increased lately, and how many teams would you say are in the mix at this point?
"He's a very attractive player to a lot of teams. We've been taking calls from several ballclubs for the last couple of weeks through about a month, and his value is only increasing as free agents sign. He's a middle-of-the-lineup, affordable bat that can do a lot of damage. Those guys are at a premium."
Q: What needs do you feel you still have, and if you did trade Morse, what kind of return would you be looking for?
"We like the team that we have. We think we're a very balanced, well-rounded, athletic club. We pitch well, we defend well, we have power and speed. So we think we have a very well-rounded ballclub. You can never have enough depth in your organization and on the big-league club. So I'd like to get a little more depth. I would certainly in any trade that would include a Mike Morse-capable player, we'd like to get either controllable, major-league help or prospects that help fulfill the minor-league system. We're open to any and all ideas. If something doesn't suit what we're trying to look for in Mike, then we're in no need to move a good, middle-of-the-lineup hitter that's fairly attractively priced."
Q: Do you feel like you need a left-handed reliever, or do you feel like you're set with Duke and Bray and the right-handers you have?
"I think the right left-handed reliever would be great. Davey likes to have at least two left-handed relievers in his bullpen. But we have a very unique and special type of bullpen. Our right-handers get out left-handed hitters better than most left-handed specialists get them out. So it's not something that we feel we have to do. We played in the free agent market on several of the left-handed relievers and couldn't get a deal done. The reason for that is we feel our right-handed relievers get out lefties, and Davey's not a big left-on-left, one-batter-at-a-time kind of manager anyway. We feel good about our bullpen. It's not a necessity to get a left-handed specialist type of reliever. But if one made sense for us, we certainly wouldn't rule it out."