General manager Mike Rizzo held a conference call this afternoon to discuss the Nationals' acquisition of Edwin Jackson and what it means for the rest of his pitching staff.
Here's a full transcript from that conference call with reporters...
Q: Edwin Jackson is a guy you've been after for quite some time, as far back as 2010. What do you like about him and what impresses you the most about him?
RIZZO: I wouldn't describe it as we've been after him since 2010. We saw an opportunity here to acquire a young, hard-throwing, power-pitching, innings-eating type of starting pitcher and we thought it was a good value at a good term. You can never have enough good, quality starting pitching, and we felt it was a good enough value to make him a National.
Q: With all of the starting pitching you have, does this help you try to acquire a bat?
RIZZO: I think they're mutually exclusive. We made this decision to help us in our starting rotation, and we feel that we've done that.
Q: You guys do now have at least seven, if not more, guys who have started in the past. How do you see the rotation shaping up, and what do you do with all those extra guys who are not going to be in the rotation?
RIZZO: Well, we're certainly going to have good competition in spring training. We're going to bring the best 25 north with us. It gives us depth and options, not only in the rotation but in the bullpen. From the start of spring training, when everyone talks about "You have too many starters," to the reality of the grueling major-league season when you're looking for starters, we feel that we have good depth and a great talent base.
Q: Do you see yourself making a trade between now and spring training?
RIZZO: We're certainly always open to make a deal that makes sense for us and if it can improve the ballclub. We did not acquire Edwin Jackson to trade another starting pitcher. If, in spring training or before spring training, a deal comes up that we can't pass up and it positively impacts our ballclub, we'll certainly be open-minded about it. We know that we have depth in the rotation. We've got good quality, hard-throwing, power pitchers that we're going to go into camp with. And if all is healthy and we have an opportunity to make a trade to improve ourselves somewhere else, we'll certainly look into it. But I like the competition aspect of this, and there's going to be a lot of good pitchers out there in spring training this year, and the best 25 guys will go north.
Q: How do you balance between moves that will help you in the short-term (like signing Jackson) versus whatever effect it might have on other guys who you have control of for a longer time?
RIZZO: I think you have to have a vision and a long-term view of what you're trying to do. The signing has to make sense for you. A big reason to acquire an Edwin Jackson ... not only is he a young, talented pitcher that's had success in the past, but you look at the other parts of our rotation where Stephen Strasburg's going to be on some sort of pitch limit, Jordan Zimmermann is coming off a 160-inning season and has never pitched 200 innings in the big leagues, Chien-Ming Wang coming off a couple years of inactivity and hasn't really stretched his arm out through a long period of time, we felt that we had an innings shortage. If you do the research, out of the eight playoff teams last year, six of those eight team had two, 200-plus inning pitchers on the team. We felt that we had an innings shortage. This not only fixes the innings shortage, it also gives us a quality standard that we feel can compete with any team in the division.
Q: With John Lannan today losing his arbitration case, and now Edwin Jackson being added to the fold, is Lannan too valuable as a starting pitcher for you? Or would you consider a possibility of using him as a long reliever?
RIZZO: I think John, his strength is as a starting pitcher. I think that he's a quality starter that's given us quality innings in the past. I believe is going to give us quality innings in the future. He's an asset to our team and gives us quality and also gives us depth and options.
Q: Can Jackson still get better as a pitcher, and how?
RIZZO: We think he's got a bit of an upside left. He's a guy that we've seen a lot. I've scouted a lot personally when I was doing scouting for other clubs. We're going to make a few tweaks to his delivery. Last year he was a different pitcher from the windup than he was from the stretch. We feel that there's certain tweaks we can make to his delivery that will make it more difficult to see. And if you look at the splits as far as runners on base pitching from the stretch, and runners not on base pitching from the windup, the numbers are really surprising: a .338 batting average against pitching from the windup and much, much less from the stretch. So we've got some ideas that we've mentioned to Edwin, and he's very receptive to them. Pending him passing the physical, we'll introduce them to him and see if we can gradually implement them and see if it improves his command and his deceptiveness. The stuff is there. The power is there. And again, a terrific character guy, makeup guy, another guy with a World Series ring and a guy we feel really good about having on the club.
Q: When did you first start contract talks?
RIZZO: We started initial discussions probably about 10 or 12 days ago. When he came to a possible shorter-term deal, a one-year deal, it made it much more palatable for us. When we recognized that on a one-year deal, the term and the value of this pitcher was too good to pass up, we felt it improved our club immensely. And it made up the innings gap I thought we had. There comes a point when his value was such that we were comfortable making the deal.
Q: His walk total came down last year. Any reasons you could detect for that?
RIZZO: You've seen his walks are trending in the right direction. I think a more mature pitcher, not afraid of pitching to contact, attacking the strike zone, especially early in counts. That's a mindset we're going to pound into all of our starting pitchers this year again, as we have in the past. With his stuff, he needs to be comfortable and confident that he can get guys out, especially early in the count. Not nibble, and thus not walk so many guys and be more successful."
Q: Are you in "win-now" mode?
RIZZO: I've been in win-now mode my whole career. We just didn't have the players capable of winning. We feel that we're a team that's going to be very, very competitive in a really, really difficult division. Our goal is to play meaningful games in September and beyond. And we feel the acquisition of this kind of talent allows us and gets us a step closer to doing that.
Q: Can you confirm if Lannan still has a minor-league option?
RIZZO: John Lannan does have an option to go to the minor leagues. We feel that he's a major-league pitcher. He's major-league caliber. He's major-league ready to help a contending team. And we feel he's a solid, major-league starting pitcher, and that's what we're going to use him as.