- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 6, 2009


After as busy a first year as anyone could ask for, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has another decision to make. He’ll have to decide whether to retain interim manager Jim Riggleman or look outside the organization for Washington’s next manager. Former Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, who worked with Rizzo in Arizona, is thought to be a candidate, and Arizona third-base coach Chip Hale’s name has also come up. But Riggleman made a strong case for himself by going 33-42 with a team that started 26-61 under Manny Acta.


The Nationals have a big shopping list this offseason. They need a veteran starter (or two), a solution at second base, several bullpen arms (possibly including a closer), another option in the outfield and possibly a veteran catcher. Some of those pieces they’ll be able to get cheaply. But others might require the team to dive into the free agent market aggressively for the first time. The farm system isn’t going to improve those areas before next year. The Lerner family has said it will spend money when it makes sense. After two straight 59-win seasons, now seems like a good time.


No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg made his debut in the Nationals’ instructional league Monday. But that’s just a precursor to the Arizona Fall League, where the team’s phenom-in-training will be exposed to legitimate professional competition for the first time. How he fares there will give some hints as to whether he can make the rotation next spring. Fellow first-rounder Drew Storen also will be there, as will first baseman Chris Marrero and catcher Derek Norris.


In addition to a boatload of arbitration cases, the Nationals have until early December to decide what to do about left-hander Scott Olsen, who will make at least $2.24 million in arbitration next year after coming off season-ending shoulder surgery. Olsen was unimpressive before his injury and could be a candidate to be nontendered. They’ll also have to decide whether they want to bring closer Mike MacDougal back and begin exploring the possibility of giving Adam Dunn a contract extension.


In addition to hiring a manager and shuffling the roster, Rizzo has to hire an assistant general manager and a farm director. There also could be a broader reorganization in the front office that moves several officials into different roles. It’s one of the first priorities, if not the most high-profile item, on Rizzo’s long to-do list.

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