After his club wrapped up the 2022 campaign with a fifth straight loss, leaving them with 107 losses overall in 162 games, Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez said he and the Nats’ GM, Mike Rizzo, had a lot of work to do over the winter to build a team which can hold its own in NL East and battle for a postseason berth.
“Our season’s over right now, for the players, but the work is just beginning for myself, [Rizzo], and the front office,” Martinez told reporters.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do heading [towards] Spring Training. I’m looking forward to this winter, getting things done, and being ready for Spring Training.”
Going into Game 162 of 162, Washington’s fifth-year manager talked about where he and Rizzo would focus as the work of building 2023’s roster began in earnest.
“We’re going into the winter with a lot of different areas that we need to fix,” he explained, “but what I do love is we get Cade [Cavalli] healthy, MacKenzie Gore, who’s going to leave here healthy, they’re going to get a chance to come in Spring Training and compete. You’ve got Josiah [Gray] who learned a lot, you’ve got Patrick [Corbin], who I really felt like over the last 6-7 starts he was getting back to what he was, so you’re talking about adding maybe 1-2 more starters and I think with doing that, with CJ [Abrams] and Luis [García] in the middle, Victor [Robles] playing center field every day, you know, I think we’re definitely going to get better.”
It can’t get no worse … than the most losses in franchise history (2005-present).
Having dealt away two middle of the order bats in the deal with San Diego at this season’s trade deadline in early August, sending Juan Soto and Josh Bell to the Padres for a package of five prospects (Abrams, Gore, Robert Hassell III, James Wood, and Jarlin Susana) and one (controllable) big league bat (Luke Voit), Martinez acknowledged the need to add power the club the lost back to the lineup as well.
“Yeah, we have to find 1-2 guys, but I think some of our younger guys you’ll start seeing a little bit more of the power come out, but for me it’s all about the starting pitching, I mean, I’ve seen teams back in the day where I played — St. Louis Cardinals stick out for me, they had Jack Clark, who drove in all the runs, but those other guys, you know, got on base, they were athletic. For me it’s about doing all the things, being more athletic, which we tried to do. We ran a lot more, we did a lot more hit-and-run, we bunted some, I mean, if you had that 1-2 guys in the middle of the lineup that can drive the ball — and I think Joey [Meneses] can be one of those guys as well — we got something. But if we don’t have starting pitching it will be tough.”
Rizzo, in an end of the year address/media scrum, told reporters he thought Martinez and Co. on the Nationals’ bench were doing a good job developing all of the young talent the club has assembled, with the manager overseeing it all.
“I think he’s doing a good job,” the GM in D.C. said. “I think I’ve seen what they’ve done with some of the younger players. I think I see progress in some of our young guys like García and Abrams, and Keibert [Ruiz] before he was hurt, I think you’ve seen a lot of progress in some of our pitchers, especially our bullpen has done a remarkable job, taking some unproven guys, some guys that were cast aside by other organizations, and really made them into big league talent that we can depend on, and I think that you see a team out there that plays hard for 27 outs.
“Sometimes it’s not pretty, but the effort is there, and I think that’s all accountable for the coaching staff and for Davey.”
Once the season was over, however, Rizzo, like the Nats’ skipper, said there was hard work to do address the glaring needs at the big league level and elsewhere in the organization.
“We’re going to attack it,” Rizzo said.
“First of all we’re going to do an autopsy of the organization after the season to see where we’re at. We’ll have a discussion with ownership to see where our parameters are, but suffice it to say we’re not comfortable with losing 100+ games, and that’s something we want to avoid again in the near future, and we’re going to put together an offseason that we’re going to be aggressively attacking the free agent market, the trade market, the international market, and any other market that helps us acquire impactful players that helps us get better sooner.”
The “autopsy”, as Rizzo’s described their post-season process for years, will assess not only where they are as an organization, what they’ve done right as they try to build the next real contender in the nation’s capital, and where work needs to be done, but the front office in D.C. will also look around the league to see where they can pull good ideas and use them to move forward in the reboot the club kicked off at the trade deadline in 2021.
“I think that the autopsy — that we’ll take will take a deep dive into where we’re at right now,” Rizzo said, “… but certainly good ideas are good ideas.
“And we’ll utilize anything that we feel is applicable to our getting back to where we want to be.”
“I think you’ve seen a big step forward this year when you look at a core group of a young, -year-old catcher in Ruiz, and 22 at shortstop in Abrams, and 22 at second base in García, and you’ve got [24-year-old] Gray, and Cavalli is , and Gore is 23,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies before the season finale.
“I think that you see that’s 6-7-8 young prospects that will be with us for a long time, and then you tack on those prospects that are coming … and then it’s time to make your trades, and add your free agent signings, and those type of things, and that was the blueprint we used back in ‘09, ‘10, and ‘11, when we … bottomed out and slowly creeped up and before you know it we’re on a 10-year run of winning four division titles, and a Wild Card, and a National League pennant, and a World Championship, and that’s how we did it, and that’s how we plan to do it again.”