If there is one thing that Washington Nationals general manager has emphasized during his time at the helm of the team it’s the importance of building through the draft. A one-time area scout who worked his way up, Rizzo’s belief in the draft has been steadfast and paramount to the way the Nationals have built themselves into one of the best teams in baseball.
With that in mind, the team has previously been loathe to give up their draft picks. When rumors swirled last summer that the Nationals might have to go so far over their slot to sign first-round pick Lucas Giolito that they might be forced to surrender a draft pick as a penalty the Nationals resoundingly shot that down. Those draft picks were too valuable, they felt, to give one up in that manner.
“Draft picks are vital to any organization’s long-term prognosis, and they’re very valuable to us,” Rizzo said Thursday. “I’m a big believer of building through the draft.”
So how, then, did they reconcile sending their first-round pick in the 2013 draft to the New York Yankees in order to sign closer Rafael Soriano? They calculated the decision.
The 2013 draft pool, as it’s been evaluated to this point, appears to be one in which the talent levels are considered to be down. ESPN.com’s Keith Law, who is considered one of the industry’s draft experts, agreed with such an assessment in a tweet on Tuesday when asked specifically about the Nationals’ deal for Soriano and the surrender of their pick.
That was a conclusion the Nationals said they came to as well.
Coupled with the fact that their selection, No. 31 overall, was so late in the first round, the Nationals saw the opportunity to improve their major league team for the next two seasons as more beneficial than the possible player they might’ve gotten at that spot.
“To acquire a talent such as Rafael Soriano, who’s done it so many times and been so consistent in the way he’s done it, really give our bullpen a huge boost,” Rizzo said. “It gives us depth, it gives us talent at the end, and it really shortens a game for the Washington Nationals.
“With that said, the draft pick’s important. But picking at the end of the draft like we are this year, we examined the draft pool, and we felt that where we were picking and the talent pool that was out there and the chance to acquire a talent such as Rafael, it was a good time for us to forfeit the pick.”
They won’t make any selections in the 2013 draft now until the end of the second round.
“It’s never easy for us because that’s where our bread and butter is,” Rizzo said of surrendering their first-round pick as well as the pool money that comes with it. “But we felt that the best strategy for us to win now and in the near future was to forego the pick and get the talent.”