Bad tweet incoming:
The column linked in that tweet argues that Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo is worth much more than his handsome $2.5 million annual salary. The tweet itself suggests (half-jokingly, I hope) that Rizzo may even have been worth $450 million during his time in Washington, which is not only a plainly crazy thing to believe, but based on some odd interpretations of the facts.
We’ll start with the fact that Rizzo signed a 32-year-old Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract before the 2011 season, and then gave Ryan Zimmerman a six-year, $100 million extension in 2012. General managers have certainly handed out worse contracts, but Zimmerman and Werth are essentially non-functional baseball players at this point, and yet continue to burn up money and at-bats in the Nats’ lineup every day. Boswell weirdly sidesteps this fact:
Two players, Werth and Ryan Zimmerman, signed deals for $126 million. [Max] Scherzer got $210 million as a free agent. Those deals ultimately end at the door of the team owners, the Lerners. But all the rest — 22 out of 25 players on the roster — were scouted, drafted, developed or traded for by Rizzo and his people. Only Oakland, with GM Billy Beane, has a higher proportion of its roster acquired by trade.
I’m not sure what “those deals ultimately end at the door of the team owners ...” is supposed to mean. It’s true that team owners get involved in nine-figure deals in a way they don’t when their teams sign random indy-ball players; it remains the GM’s job to counsel or persuade owners into getting involved in good deals, not bad ones. Rizzo was the GM when those contracts were signed, and they’re just as much his responsibility as anything else that’s been done to the roster.
Having put aside the Werth and Zimmerman contracts, Boswell gets into some opaque math:
Since becoming GM in 2009, Rizzo has made trades that have, by my estimate, brought about 25 extra wins to the Nats above what might be expected of an average GM who cancels a good trade with a bad one. Also, since 2007, Rizzo has been the man most responsible for the Nats’ draft record. Since then, they have added about 40 extra wins above the average front office.
That’s 65 extra wins. Is it an exact measure? No. Is it shocking? Yes.
Pulling 65 extra wins out of a convoluted method that involves subjectively setting the baseline for GM competence at “one who cancels out a good trade with a bad one”—and attributing those wins to the GM, rather than to scouts, coaches, and, you know, players—is one way to evaluate a GM’s performance. You know what is a much, much easier way? Looking at how his team has performed.
Since 2009, the Nats have a 594-577 record and have been bounced from the division series both times they’ve reached the playoffs. That’s fine! That’s a record that belongs to a fine GM who has a big payroll to spend and wasn’t dumb enough to pass up Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg with two No. 1 overall picks in the draft. It’s not a record that belongs to a GM who is worth $450 million, despite what the hometown columnist would like you to believe.