Nats stand pat, like the team they have
Updated at 9:53 p.m.
One day after Mike Rizzo displayed a show of confidence in his struggling team, electing not to make any changes at the July 31 trade deadline, Nationals ownership decided to display its own show of confidence in its general manager.
The Nationals announced Thursday night Rizzo has signed a long-term contract, with a promotion included. Rizzo now becomes the club's president of baseball operations in addition to GM.
Upon purchasing the Nationals, Mike Rizzo was our first hire and he has performed brilliantly," managing principal owner Ted Lerner said in a statement released by the team. "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, who initially was hired by the Nationals in July 2006 to serve as assistant GM under Jim Bowden, took over top duties in 2009 after Bowden resigned, inheriting a franchise coming off a 102-loss season and with a barren farm system. Three years later, Rizzo helped build a 98-win division champion, one built largely through the draft and several trades for young players with long-term club control.
That upward path of success, though, hasn't carried over into 2013. The Nationals hovered around the .500 mark through the season's first half but have gone 4-9 since the All-Star break and now sit four games under .500, 10 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East, with two months to play.
Despite this season's disappointment, the Nationals have maintained all along they wouldn't veer off their long-term plan, keeping together a roster of core players not only for this year but for several years down the road.
Rizzo himself made that clear on Wednesday, electing neither to acquire nor deal any players at the non-waiver trade deadline, reiterating his belief that the roster as currently constructed should be good enough to win. One night later, Nationals ownership made their belief in the GM clear with the announcement of the new contract.
Though the timing of the announcement coincided with the trade deadline and the Nationals' on-field struggles, Rizzo and ownership had been negotiating this deal for months.
Signed to a five-year extension in 2011 — though the final two years were separate club options — Rizzo was unable to leave the franchise on his own accord until after the 2015 season. Ownership picked up his 2014 option earlier this season, then talks progressed toward a new, long-term contract.
Terms of this new deal were not announced.
"I am truly proud to be a part of the Washington Nationals and excited to be able to continue what we've started here," Rizzo said in a statement. "The task of building this club from nearly expansion level – at both the minor and major league level – has been challenging, but the Lerner family has been nothing but supportive. We've made significant progress toward our goal of competing for a World Series championship, and I intend to do everything in my power to one day hand that trophy to Mr. Lerner at Nationals Park. We've still got work to do, but I am pleased that ownership trusts me to get it done."