DALLAS -- It would be easy to look at the contingent of Nationals officials who departed the Anatole Hotel this afternoon without having acquired any big-league players and declare these Winter Meetings a failure for D.C.'s ballclub.
To be sure, the Nationals arrived in Dallas Sunday night wanting to make a significant addition to their roster, and believing they had a good chance of doing just that.
But it's unfair to declare this week a failure for the Nationals without knowing what the next two months still have in store for them. Though these four days at the Winter Meetings offer the best opportunity for all clubs to wheel and deal and make moves, the Hot Stove League doesn't close up shop today just because everyone bolts town.
"I think the Winter Meetings were productive, very productive," Rizzo said this morning. "We were extremely busy on a lot of different facets, and I think we laid a lot of foundation for discussions with other GMs. We still have our goal of doing the things we're supposed to do. I think we've come a long way in really getting close to doing something very productive for the club."
Whether the fruits of the Nationals' labor while in Dallas will be born later this winter remains to be seen. They'd still like to acquire another arm to bolster their rotation, though no available pitcher fits their profile as well as Mark Buehrle (who yesterday chose to sign with the Marlins). They'd still like to acquire a center fielder who ideally could lead off, though trade talks this week didn't go very far.
Is Rizzo more confident now about pulling off a deal than he was when he arrived in town?
"I wouldn't say more confident than coming in here," he said. "We feel we're going to give ourselves every option to do it. We're not going to be rushed into anything or forced into anything. But if a deal is out there that we feel comfortable with, we're certainly going to pull the trigger."
That line of thinking actually speaks volumes about the Nationals' approach at these meetings. Despite any outside pressure to get something done, they never wanted to feel forced into making a move they didn't believe was right for them.
As one club official put it today: At the Winter Meetings, your goal is to take advantage of other teams' desperation and not let them take advantage of your own desperation.
The Nationals easily could have fallen into a trap here, especially after losing out on Buehrle and watching their division rival Marlins throw hundreds of millions of dollars at every free agent in sight, and made a move of desperation that would come back to haunt them.
By resisting that temptation, they perhaps left themselves in a better position to do something that actually makes sense for their improvement in the days and weeks to come.