Mike Rizzo's incredible offseason

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo had his eyes on Denard Span two years prior to trading for him. John McDonnell/The Washington Post/Getty Images

One of the most difficult things to do in baseball is keep a good team intact. Any number of factors from finances to free agency can fracture a team. To actually improve it and upgrade it at several key positions in one offseason can prove most difficult.

But that’s exactly what Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo did this past offseason. While other teams such as the Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers might have acquired better and higher-profile players, Rizzo was surgical and precise in achieving his goals. When he was finally done, he had what I consider the best offseason campaign of any general manager.

Heading into the offseason, Rizzo had several objectives:

1. Find a center fielder/leadoff hitter

2. Find a starting pitcher to replace right-hander Edwin Jackson

3. Re-sign his free agents

4. Improve the back end of the bullpen

5. Replenish a thinned-out farm system

To achieve these objectives, Rizzo certainly had enough funds to make both the trade and free-agent markets available to him. But he also remained patient and shrewd, eventually acquiring all the parts necessary for the Nationals to actually improve a 98-win club. They should be heavily favored to reach and win the 2013 World Series.

Let’s take a look at how Rizzo accomplished these goals: