WASHINGTON -- Mike Rizzo does not like to wear a suit often. He wore one Thursday for the Nationals' home opener against the Mets and joked it's one of the rare times he will wear one to the ballpark. But there was another reason, beyond the pomp and circumstance, that
WASHINGTON -- Mike Rizzo does not like to wear a suit often. He wore one Thursday for the Nationals' home opener against the Mets and joked it's one of the rare times he will wear one to the ballpark. But there was another reason, beyond the pomp and circumstance, that called for the sartorial choice Thursday morning, as the Nats announced they had signed Rizzo to a two-year contract extension.
The deal ensures Rizzo, who was in the final year of his contract, will continue in his role as the team's general manager and president of baseball operations through the 2020 season. The two sides gained traction toward a deal the past few days before it was completed late Wednesday night after the team landed from a road trip in Atlanta.
"I never doubted that we'd be in this position, but it's good to have it behind us," Rizzo said. "So everybody can take a deep breath and relax in knowing that we're going to have some continuity going forward."
Rizzo's uncertain future was one of the biggest storylines for Washington entering the 2018 season. He had been steadfast that while he was not concerned about his contract status, he wanted to remain in Washington. But he would also not approach ownership about his future. After some initial talks began this spring, the Lerner family got an extension done before the team's first home game. Rizzo will now reportedly earn around $4 million annually, according to The Washington Post, a significant raise from the $2.5 million his previous deal paid him.
When the Lerner family became the principal owners of the Nationals in 2006, Rizzo was their first significant hire -- as an assistant GM. He replaced Jim Bowden as GM in '09, and he was eventually promoted to president of baseball operations in '13. During his tenure, Rizzo has been the architect behind the Nationals' transformation from bottom dweller in the National League East to perennial postseason contender.
The Nats have won four division championships since 2012 and posted six consecutive winning seasons. Washington owns a .572 winning percentage since '12, second only to the Dodgers (.574) during that span. That regular-season success has not yet translated into similar success in the postseason, with Washington coming off back-to-back losses in Game 5 of the NL Division Series, but Rizzo's resume remains among the best in baseball.
"We've built a winning culture, we've got a winning franchise," Rizzo said. "We're lacking the big prize, but in fairly short order -- we're fairly a new organization coming from a new franchise when we took over to one of the most consistent winning franchises in baseball. We're proud of that, but we've got a lot of work to do, and this indicates the Lerners' resolve and my resolve to do this thing long term and get it done."
During his tenure, Rizzo has drafted stars such as Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, traded for Trea Turner and Adam Eaton, and signed prominent free agents such as Max Scherzer and Daniel Murphy to build the Nationals into one of the NL's best teams.
A few of those players have also gone to bat for him recently, saying he deserved a contract extension, and Scherzer has been among the most vocal of the bunch.
"I've got to play under a handful of GMs and, obviously, he's been one of the best," Scherzer said. "When you look across the game, you look at how you evaluate GMs, you have to put Mike Rizzo and evaluate him as high as anybody."
This deal ties him together with manager Dave Martinez, whose contract also runs through 2020 and who admitted he was a little concerned about Rizzo's future when he took the job, but was confident they would reach a deal. The Nats are once again the favorites to win the NL East and got off to a fast start this season at 4-2, but this could be their last chance at a World Series championship with their current core. Harper, Murphy and Giovany Gonzalez are all eligible to be free agents at the end of the season.
And now the Nationals have secured one of their biggest impending free agents, one who will help them try to continue their winning ways in Washington.
"Riz is a great guy," Harper said. "Somebody that's going to have your back every night. Somebody that's going to battle for you in the trenches when you're going bad or going good, so I've got a lot of respect for Rizzo."
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.