Friday, December 04, 2009

Kitchen Cabinet

The 2009 Winter Meetings, the big off-season get-together for every Major League Team, begins this coming Monday in Indianapolis, Indiana. While many franchises will be looking to wheel and deal and make that big splash, Our Washington Nationals will more likely have the opportunity to get some early feedback on all the many Front Office Baseball Operations hires taken on since Mike Rizzo was named General Manager of Washington's Major League Team.

A unique situation thanks to his remodeled Kitchen Cabinet.

For the first time since Baseball Returned to D.C., seven freshly hired Nats Personnel Experts could influence what direction Our Washington Nationals turn this coming week. Openly, Mr. Rizzo has stated the need for one, possibly two, veteran starters, bullpen help, a catcher (in case Jesus Flores is slow to recover from his latest injury) and a middle infielder (whether that be at second base or shortstop--to be determined).

All necessary needs--granted.

But while a weak Free Agent Class might bring high offers for outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, or possibly pitchers John Lackey or Jon Garland from the other 29 teams--Washington is more likely to look for a deal. The signing of a lower tier free agent (starting pitcher), or the making of a player swap not currently on any one's radar.

And this is where Washington might have an upper hand.

Roy Clark, D.C.'s new VP of Player Personnel just came over after 11 Years as Director of Player Development of The Atlanta Braves.

New Director of Player Development, Doug Harris, spent his past 12 years scouting in various capacities for The Cleveland Indians (one year) and The Texas Rangers (11).

Washington Director of Latin American Operations--Johnny DiPuglia--a full decade coordinating The Boston Red Sox Latin American Operations.

Casey McKeon, Director of Player Procurement--seven seasons as an Assistant to The Colorado Rockies General Manager.

Jay Robertson--Special Advisor to Mike Rizzo--eight seasons scouting for The Texas Rangers.

New Assistant GM, Bryan Minniti, nine seasons with The Pittsburgh Pirates--the last two as Director of Operations.

Mr. Rizzo's other special advisor--Ron Schueler--adds his wealth of experience to the field--which includes the last few years in special roles for The San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. Schueler's 11 year run as General Manager of The Chicago White Sox that ended in 2000 not bad insight also.

And don't forget, Phil Rizzo, Mike's Dad, The Hall Of Fame Scout for countless teams including The Arizona Diamondbacks and The Old Washington Senators--officially hired this week to be that sounding board whose knowledge Our General Manager has trusted his entire life.

That's eight baseball executives that maintain intimate knowledge of recent player talent in ten different organizations. A trusted Kitchen Cabinet to bounce ideas and thoughts around. That's a big heads up that could well play in Washington's favor. When you don't necessarily have much in hand to trade--a position Washington is slowly attempting to change. Wise decision making and prudent comprehension of another team's personnel in the major and minor leagues--is important to any conclusion.

Not knowing for sure whether that needed catcher, infielder or bullpen help is now lost or flying under the radar for Washington to scoop up--having Clark, Harris, DiPuglia, McKeon, Robertson, Minniti, Schueler and Phil Rizzo now on board gives Mike Rizzo the reach to explore more possibilities and potentially pick another franchise's pocket while swinging a deal that--on the surface--might not cause much stir next week.

In fact, a swap that might look like a loss--at first.

But conviction will not give the Junior Rizzo pause.

Because his eight fresh pair of keen, knowledgeable personnel eyes may just help D.C.'s Team make that Big Splash many teams like to be a part of at these Winter Meetings after all. It's just that Washington's glory in The Art Of Any Deal might not come until well after Our Washington Nationals commence and even conclude their 2010 Spring Training.

That's what happens when you take advantage of a position. The other side doesn't know they've been fleeced--until months have passed.

Our General Manager Mike Rizzo is in a unique situation this off-season. His newly remodeled Kitchen Cabinet knows the intimate details of other franchises. That's rare. And Our Washington Nationals need to start taking advantage of that inside information--if they haven't done so already--before that edge evens out and all the circumstances surrounding Mr. Rizzo's new right hand men leaving their old jobs--are lost.

No question that Hot Stove is currently firing up. Can Our Washington Nationals stoke a flame under those upcoming cold winter nights and make a few moves that could heat up Our Franchise's future--for 2010 and beyond?

It all really begins next week.

Rizzo/Kasten Photo Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

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