The announcement of Stephen Strasburg signing a 7-year, $245 million deal to continue (and hopefully finish) his career in Washington was music to the ears of Nationals fans everywhere.
General Manager Mike Rizzo kept the good news coming during a joint press conference officially announcing the deal, implying that the Nationals were still in the conversation to resign their other superstar free agent: Anthony Rendon.
Rizzo was asked early on about how Strasburg’s mega deal might impact the team’s ability to purse (afford) a similar contract with Rendon. The Nationals’ GM was quick to point out he has never been hamstrung financially by the team’s ownership group, and he sees the franchise as capable of bringing back both World Series stars.
In response to his optimism, Rizzo was asked a follow up question specifically referencing Nationals owner Mark Lerner’s comments, in which he suggested to NBC Sports Washington that the Nats can only afford to pay one of Strasburg and Rendon.
“When you look at those comments, and then you look at the structure of this particular deal, and the structure of deals we’ve had getting up to where we are right now, I think that Mark [Lerner] realizes that there’s ways to fit players in,” Rizzo responded, initially rebutting Lerner’s hesitation that there’d be enough money available.
The Lerners are among the wealthiest ownership groups in Major League Baseball, and while hundreds of millions of dollars may seem like a lot, it’s important to remember that sports team owners are almost exclusively billionaires.
On the other hand, it’s also important to remember that the Nationals have never shied away from spending big if it means getting closer to a World Series title.
“There are ways that you can field a championship-caliber roster,” Rizzo continued. “And again, the resources have always been there. I don’t expect that to change.”
It’s a little eye-raising to hear two important decision-makers with the same team make such contrasting comments publicly, but this is the type of answer you’d expect from a team expecting to compete for more championships in the years to come.
Both Strasburg and Rendon were drafted by the Nationals and developed into World Series-winning superstars in the nation’s capital. It’s no surprise that the team would like to bring both back to their win-now club.
What may be a surprise to Nats fans is if/when they elect to spend that kind of money. But don’t tell Mike Rizzo the team isn’t ready and willing to spend on another championship-level roster.
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