The next time Ted and Stan Lerner tell their driver to decorate the Saturday car with a bumper sticker, look for it to say "I roll with Rizzo" or something like that. The Nats have gone all-in on Mike Rizzo. While it might seem like the Nats are shouting "I WILL sign that long-term lease!" from the driver side window of a car sinking into a lake, this was move really decided months ago. The team has improved a bunch since Rizzo has been involved with them. The Lerners like Rizzo. He likes being here. I imagine it was only the Lerners' penurious attitude toward spending that kept this from happening earlier in the year when it made more sense.
Also Rizzo is a hypocrite who doesn't mind moaning through private channels about not having a long-term deal, while publically saying people should just "own the job" and shut up about contracts. But, such is life. For a lot of people, what works for everyone else doesn't necessarily apply to them.
Rizzo is in the midst of a terrible season. He signed Haren. Didn't work out. He traded for Span. Didn't work out. He bet on LaRoche rather than Morse. Didn't work out. He let Gorzelanny go for Duke and kept trying to make H-Rod something. Didn't work out. He signed Chris Young and kept Maya around for pitching depth. Didn't work out. He traded for Scott Hairston. Didn't work out. He believed in the bench he built last year to start the year (didn't work out), then failed to make the necessary moves when it was obvious they were failing (didn't work out). Add to that a bunch of call-ups, most notably Rendon but also Marrero, Karns, Kobernus, Solano & Davis, that showed how shallow the Nats organization was at the upper levels, and this season was almost a complete and utter failure for the GM.
Only a deal for Soriano (which may not have been his idea, and helped lead to the downfall of Storen but that's more Storen's fault than anyone's) and the success of some mid/late-season pitching filler (Ohlendorf, Krol, Jordan) are on the positive side of Rizzo's ledger for 2013. Sure you can defend a lot of these moves. You might even have made a lot of the same moves. I would have. But you know what? Me and you, we would also have failed at our jobs this year and shouldn't have gotten extensions right now.
Imagine this : Danny Espinosa comes to Rizzo and demands a long-term deal. He had success in previous years. He was the 7th most valuable 2nd baseman across 2011-2012 because of his combination of pop and defense. He has somethings this year that he can point to as successes (still a plus defender). Does he get a deal? Absolutely not. He'd be laughed out of Rizzo's office (or more likely he'd be shamed out with a "Go out and do your job" tough guy talk) And yet here is Rizzo in a similar situation gobbling up a long term deal with no talk yet of how he's screwed up this year and needs to work harder/smarter to get the Nats over the hump.
If the Nats had made this deal even 3 months ago, no one would have blinked an eye. I would have been all for it. But we've had an extra 3 months right in front of us that screamed "HEY WAIT!" and a deal in place that already allowed the Nats another season to play with, and 2015 was an option as well. Why not wait? If my hand was forced, would I have kept Rizzo on? Yes. But their hand wasn't forced.
All in all, right now I have a hard time believing this is anything more than bad timing. Rizzo seems competent. He's helped, with some notable draft position luck*, turn this from a go nowhere franchise to one that was favored to win the series this year. That's quite an accomplishment. He'll probably be at least fine, if not good. But if midway through 2014, another couple Rizzo signings are failing, the organization is filled with broken arms and B-prospects, and the team is looking at missing the playoffs again, we'll all look back a today and wonder why the trigger was pulled now, when it seems like the gun is pointing straight down.
*Imagine this years team minus Strasburg and Bryce and plus Dustin Ackley and Jameson Taillon.