DALLAS -- The Nationals as a franchise had never included a no-trade clause in any contract prior to last winter. Ex-team president Stan Kasten had long stood by a personal policy against such concessions to players.
But Kasten's departure combined with Jayson Werth's arrival changed all that one year ago. Though they were reluctant to do it, the Nationals included a full no-trade clause in Werth's seven-year, 126 million contract.
Fast-forward to this year's Winter Meetings, where one of the Nationals' top targets on the open market -- left-hander Mark Buehrle -- has indicated he wants a no-trade clause himself. So, is Rizzo willing to do it again?
"I guess we've opened that door," Rizzo said this afternoon during his daily press briefing. "We prefer not to, and they'll be a huge part of the negotiation. But for the right player and the right fit, I think you have to be open-minded and flexible enough to at least think about it and talk about."
Rizzo wouldn't say whether he's met with Buehrle's agent, Jeff Barry, here at the Anatole Hotel, but the GM did say he's met with "two teams and two agents" so far today. "But the day is young so far," he added.
A host of teams are believed to be interested in Buehrle, who has thrown at least 200 innings and won at least 10 games each of the last 11 seasons. He's expected to command at least a three-year deal, possibly four, and because of the depth of suitors could be in a position to insist on the no-trade clause.
Rizzo, though, insists he won't feel any pressure to consummate a deal while in Dallas, saying "I don't think it's imperative we get it done at the meetings."
As for the Nationals' other top priority this winter -- a center fielder -- Rizzo also insisted there's no pressure to work something out this week. He also said the acquisition of a center fielder, while preferable, is not mandatory.
That's because the club would be willing to move Werth to center field if needed, a move that could also clear up right field for top prospect Bryce Harper.
"We know we have in-house candidates with Harper and several others that could fill that bill," Rizzo said. "Depending on if we deem Harp ready, when he's ready goes into the equation. Are there other options out there and what is the cost of acquiring those other options?"
Werth spent much of September in center field and impressed club officials with his defensive prowess there.
"That was one of the reasons we put Jayson out there, to find out if we had a center fielder in-house," Rizzo said. "We felt that he played quite well out there. So it doesn't really keyhole us into having to make a trade for a center fielder. Because we feel we could have our center fielder in-house already."