Winter Meetings interview with Matt Williams

Q. This is your second go around at these things. How are things different for you now with a year under your belt and the winter meetings under your belt?

MATT WILLIAMS: Well, I think there's this year is a whole lot of speculation and rumor coming in, even more than last year. There's a lot of that. But it's better because I know everybody, all the scouts that we're dealing with, I know them for a year now and it's easier to communicate with them, talk to them about their feelings on players or guys they saw this year or whatever it is. It's more comfortable.

Q. You mentioned the speculation. How much are you in contact with Rizz about all the options and how things might play out?

MATT WILLIAMS: All the time. Every day. I just left a room full of 35 guys, maybe even more than that. And there's lots of things being talked about externally. So, yeah, we're just kind of up there evaluating everything that's been said and everything that's been talked about. So it's been good.

Q. What's going to happen?

MATT WILLIAMS: Don't know. Nothing yet. Nothing so far, which is okay, too. I think Rizz is listening. I think he's listening to everybody that wants to come calling, but nothing as yet.

Q. How much do you sense that there is a struggle between trying to put together the best team to win this year versus also making sure you're protecting yourselves long term?

MATT WILLIAMS: It's important. It's important to Mike, I'm sure. He's expressed that to me and to you guys, as well. It's important for him to look at next year and with that do what he's done such a fantastic job of doing, and that's building an organization and continuing to have a competitive year, year in and year out. It's a fine line, for sure. But we have to evaluate and certainly Mike is at the forefront of that, along with everybody involved, evaluating what folks have to say. Like I said there's lots of rumor out there, not really anything that's concrete or has any merit to it at this point.

Q. Were you ever aware as a player that all of this sort of went on during the offseason, that this many guys got in a room and talked?

MATT WILLIAMS: You never even worry about it, because it doesn't affect you unless you get traded as a player. So from the players perspective I think right now guys are busy getting ready for Spring Training, preparing themselves for next year. And doing what they need to do to play good. So you don't much worry about it. It's a fun process, though. It's an interesting process to be a part of. And you get a chance to understand the inner workings of all of it. And at the same time trying to do what you can to be competitive with your own team next year. It's fun.

Q. You were just addressing the question of about the long range as opposed to what's ahead, right in front of you. As a manager you tend to be looking at results and the more immediate outcome. So how difficult is it for a manager to establish that balance, keep that long range perspective, and how much of a say do you have in that?

MATT WILLIAMS: Oh, I have as much say as anybody else in the room would have. Ultimately, if anything is ever done, it has to make sense for your team. Not only near term, but long term. So from a manager's perspective, I just want to be able to go out there with the guys and compete every day. And we as an organization do whatever we can to insure that that's the case on an every day basis, whether it's opening day 2015, '16, '17 and beyond. That's our objective. And I think that's a group objective, a team objective. I'm not worried about how what kind of team we're going to have because I know everybody is on the same page. As it stands right now we've got a wonderful team and can be competitive on an every day basis and that's all we care about.

Q. As you look at the roster right now what do you see as needs for the team going forward in the offseason, what do you want to get out of it?

MATT WILLIAMS: Personnel wise?

Q. Yes.

MATT WILLIAMS: I think that we look at Anthony, has the ability to play third and second base. I know that there was some I saw a little Tweet yesterday, watching the TV up there that Mike had said something about there's a possibility for a third baseman, Anthony can move to second, as well. That's a possibility. We have flexibility, as well. Certainly Desi is coming off his third Silver Slugger. And he's a very productive shortstop. So we're solid there. We're solid at second with Danny, certainly. He played half a season for us last year and was very productive for us. We look at Zimm moving to the other side of the diamond and playing first base with the loss of Adam. And I think his transition will go smoothly. The limited time that he's played over there he's handled it just fine. It's the other side of the diamond but that won't take long for him because he's an athlete and he knows what he's doing with a glove in his hand. Our outfield is great. The emergence of Steven Souza, and McLouth being healthy certainly is great for us. Our catching, our two guys behind the plate are phenomenal, had great seasons and allowed us to get to the playoffs. Starting rotation is it speaks for itself. And our bullpen stacks up. We don't have Sori, but we have guys at the back of the bullpen that have experience and success that are interchangeable, both of them both Clip and Andrew have pitched in the ninth inning, as well as the 8th and the 7th, so they're experienced and they know what they're doing. Needs, well, it depends on what somebody has to offer I would imagine at this point. We just don't know what that is right now. But I'm sure, like I said, Mike is listening to everybody that wants to talk about anything.

Q. Do you have a preference, keeping Anthony at third as a natural position for him, instead of moving him to second?

MATT WILLIAMS: I think he could play both. I think he could play both very well. Initially his in intro into the leagues was at second base, because of need. And I think he made great improvements in that regard. Last year was kind of need to move him back to third. And so that being said, I think he's adjusted very well. So he could play either. And I don't know which is natural for him. Coming up he played mostly third. But I think he adapted to second really well. I think that could be, with a little bit of time, natural for him, as well. I think either position he plays he'll be fine defensively. And offensively, I think he's just scratched the surface of what he can be.

Q. Do you feel that the window is closed on your team, considering you have five free agents?

MATT WILLIAMS: I don't know about whether the window is closing. I think that we have opportunity. That's how I look at it. I look at the opportunity to be competitive again. We certainly want to get back to where we were last year with an opportunity to play meaningful games in September, October and go further and have a chance to win it. So that's what we hope for. I know that the team that we have, certainly minus Adam, who was a big part of it, has the ability to do that on an every day basis. Our team can compete. We have to do things right, of course, to get to where we want to go. I don't look at it as something closing, I look at it as potentially something opening.

Q. Over the course of the season you've seen Bryce get healthier and more productive. Being a year older, do you expect him to maybe take on more shoulder the load a little bit more?

MATT WILLIAMS: Yes, I do.

Q. Also behind the scenes in the clubhouse?

MATT WILLIAMS: Yeah, for me, you know, his season was the tale of two seasons, really. It started off where he struggled a little bit the at first, he got hurt. And then it takes so much time to get back. Especially if it's an extremity, something like his top thumb is something that can affect him. So I think toward the end of the season he really started to feel strong again. I think he made a huge step in the playoffs. I think that he took that step knowing that when the bright lights are shining that he can do it and he can carry if he needs to carry. Nobody wants to put that kind of pressure on anybody, but just that confidence will help him. And so I think he's ready to take the following step, which is get to the point where he's hitting in the middle of an order and he's shouldering that load and being more of a vocal leader at times. But I just want him to play. If he does that, that speaks for itself.

Q. Thought he could hit four?

MATT WILLIAMS: He could. He could hit two, he could hit three. He could hit four. It depends on the structure of our team on any given day. If there's anything I learned from last year it's you can't count on a set lineup every day, because us you just don't know what's going to happen. That being said, I don't want to pigeonhole him at this point, early December, and say he's going to hit X, Y or Z. But he'll be in the middle of our order.

Q. The loss of Adam and that left handed bat in the middle of the order, do you view that as a concern that maybe you're becoming more right handed dominant in the lineup?

MATT WILLIAMS: Well, it's interesting because Adam provided stability in every aspect, whether it was hitting fourth. All you have to do is look at opening day and me, like a big dummy, hit him 7th, if anybody ever remembers back that far. Do you remember that? Rendon 8th. It depends on who's there and who is available and who's hurt and who's not. But we've come a long way since then. But he provided stability, defensively, offensively, in the clubhouse, all the intangibles, of course. So I think that was a big thing for us. I think it was important for us to have that. We have to find that other places now. We have to certainly have that stability within the middle of our lineup. We have to have that stability in the clubhouse. So that means other guys have to step up and it's important for our team for somebody to do that. Could it be Bryce, sure. It could be. Could it be Zimm, being healthy and playing a full season, sure.

Q. I don't know how you assessed your off seasons as a player, but when you look back, give yourself a little bit of time to think about the job you actually did?

MATT WILLIAMS: You know, I think it was I think it was okay. There were times that were challenging, certainly. And I think it's going to be that way, given who we have on our team. Bryce's light's a little bit brighter than anybody else's. And so is Steven's. It comes with the territory. I learned how to deal with that to help them deal with that a little bit. And maybe just shoulder a little bit of that load myself and take it off of them. So that's important. I learned that there's times where I've just got to step aside and let them go and let them play. I'm a little bit of a control freak, as everybody saw with the schedule for last Spring Training. But I learned that you can't do that all the time. When you play you have the ability to change it, to actually control it. When you're not playing, you don't. So there's that fine line that you have to walk sometimes and just there's times where you just get out of the way. There's a lot of things I learned. And hopefully I can take those and be better at my job going forward.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)

MATT WILLIAMS: Yeah, they've improved, yeah. I think the whole division will improve. You look to Miami and that's a really good team with a really good pitching staff. They've cemented themselves, in the middle of our division, with a chance to win it. They were close, all the way to the end last year. The Mets finished second. And so that's an interesting team. They've improved a lot. They've got really good young pitching. So it's a challenging division for us. We're going to have to play well. We're going to have to do things correctly, if we're going to have a chance to beat those guys and win the division again. It's always a challenge, though. We're looking forward to getting back to spring and starting it all over again, see what we can do.

Q. Over the last couple of months have you gone back and mentally revisited the NLDS and gone through everything that happened or do you tuck that away and move past it and focus on 2015?

MATT WILLIAMS: It does you no good. You understand that we have an opportunity again to get back to where we want to go. That's a focus. That's a huge focus for us. Of course everybody looks back at what could have been. Given the fact that everybody thought we should be there we accomplished that goal. We accomplished the goal through a lot of trial and tribulation. At one point we were 25 and 26 early in the season. And percent veered and got to where we wanted to get to at the end of the regular season. We didn't get to where we wanted to get to in the postseason, of course. Unless you're the last team standing, you're going to be disappointed. It ends very abruptly and then all of a sudden you have to switch focus. So that's what we're doing now. And looking forward to 2015. I like where we're at. I like our chances. I like the opportunity that we've got in front of us. And go from there. So I'm excited about it. I know everybody else is.

Q. You mentioned a little bit about Zimm going over to first base. What particular challenges do you think is that going to present him and might it take a while just playing games every day during the season before he starts to get comfortable?

MATT WILLIAMS: I think he's going to get a lot of opportunity in spring. That helps. That's why we have six weeks. That's why we play 30ish games and the opportunity to get your legs underneath you. And if somebody has an opportunity to switch position, that gives them a chance to get used to it. It's the opposite side of the diamond. So everything that Zimm has done in his career has gone to his left. And now everything is going to go to his right. So that's a challenge. It's a switch. But he's an athlete. We put him in left field, for crying out loud, and he did great. He's an athlete. He can do it. And it will just take some time. But I think he'll have ample time in Spring Training to accomplish that. I think the transition for him will be fine.

Q. What did you learn about Jordan Zimmermann over the course of the year and in those in the playoffs?

MATT WILLIAMS: Just that he's at the point in his career where he can be the top of the line guy. And I think judging from the interest here and the speculation that's going around we're not alone in viewing him that way. I think it's important for him to understand that, for us to understand of that of him. And he doesn't change the way he goes about it, regardless of what the score is, what the situation might be. He knows what he's doing out there. He knows how to go about getting people out. We saw that all year. There were some times, May ish where there was a little haywire for him sometimes. But he corrected it. He corrected mechanics. He found his slider. That's what pros do. They find a way to get through it or get out of it or percent veer to get to the next level. He's a great pitcher.

Q. Given all that and all the sort of interest from the clubs in him, is it hard to even think about sort of the challenge of potentially replacing a pitcher like that, if it did come to that?

MATT WILLIAMS: Well, without it's reality, though, right? Everybody is talking about it. I love him on our team. I love to give him the ball every fifth day. And I hope that I get a chance to do that for a long time to come. But it is the game. It is the business of the game. And you have to deal with it. I know that there's been a lot of speculation, a lot of talk about it. But at this point I'm looking forward to giving him the ball every fifth day. And he's been an important part of our team to have success in 2015.

Q. Do you think the organizational preference is that he's here for a long time as opposed to having to make a decision to something down the road?

MATT WILLIAMS: Yeah, of course. Who wouldn't? Who wouldn't want him to be in your club. I think we view it the same way. We'd love to have him on our team. And he's a vital part of our success, like I said. Yeah, again, there wouldn't be all this interest in him if he wasn't a really good pitcher. So we want him on our club. We want to have him on our team and have him compete for us.

Q. It seemed like a good room, I think we talked, your clubhouse, 25 is never 25, but do you look back at that part of it. I don't know how much you cared as a player and maybe the guy makes a roster, and maybe he fits or it's the piece you need?

MATT WILLIAMS: It's important, make up and how they fit the room is important. Ultimately it's how they perform in the diamond. But with regard to our clubhouse and our guys, you know, they are all on the same end of the rope. And that's all you can ask for. As a manager, as a coach, as an organization or as a teammate, make sure that everybody is on the same end. And if they're not, get them there and get them pulling. That happens certainly, that happens within the clubhouse. It certainly happens with the coaching staff and the manager. So I think if I look back on last year in that regard, I haven't seen one better, a team that was all in and all focused on where we wanted to go. It's always disappointing when you don't get to where you wanted to get to. But nonetheless, the process of getting there and the attitude you have which you play every day to get there is important, as well.

Q. What you said about Zimm, given you don't get a chance to compete for a World Series every year, and you are a team capable of doing that. How much would you like to keep everybody intact and play it out?

MATT WILLIAMS: We have to be realists in that we know that people are going to come ask about him. Because it's been written about. So people come and Mike is willing to listen. And he's going to evaluate. And we as an organization are going to talk about the possibility. And that's I think that's just prudent. That's just the way you should do it. But that being said, boy we had a good team and we'd like to try to go do it again. Not saying that I have preference one way or the other. But we all would like to compete for a championship, sure. So we'll do everything we can do to get there. Again, people are going to come ask. They're going to come inquire, for sure.

Q. Have you talked to Danny about I think there was something that had been discussed about last season at what level is it a decision that

MATT WILLIAMS: Well, he has to be he has to embrace it, for sure. So we all know his splits. His splits are really good right handed. Handles left handed pitching really well. You know, he did some really good things left handed, too. But right handed certainly the splits are better than left. So we broached the subject with him. He worked on it in batting practice and will continue to work on it. We get to Spring Training where he can have some at bats that don't necessarily mean anything at that point, and get a feel for it. We've got the ability to get him on the other side of the plate in Minor League camp for extended at bats, which is important. So we'll continue that process with him. But I think that I think he's a vital part of our team. He showed that last year. And so we'll do everything we can to insure that he's ready to go. And can be productive for us, whether it's left handed, right handed, second or short or wherever he needs to play for us.

Q. He'll still be switch hitting next year?

MATT WILLIAMS: As it sits right now he has had no opportunity to go bat righty righty. I worry about guys that have never done it, getting out of the way of a ball that's thrown up and in from a right handed. Anybody that's hits righty righty knows that the ball chases you. So what I don't want is him to sacrifice his health first. But there's opportunity for him to do that in spring. He's done it in batting practice, but that's a controlled situation. Once you get in a game it's a completely different deal. But to say that he will switch hit next year, at this point, is probably premature, but we'll continue to work on his game and work on him being productive for us.

Q. He had indicated last year when we talked to him about it that he might go to his former college and work on some stuff there in the offseason?

MATT WILLIAMS: He's preparing. But it's never the same, you know, it's never the same as in a game situation. Batting practice, I throw him batting practice all day long, and he's not worried about a ball coming up and in, necessarily. And I'm not I can't break off a slider like the rest of the guys that are going to pitch against him do. So it's a process. It's not something you can just do, just to do. And it doesn't happen overnight, either. So I think he's continuing to try to improve and be a good player. He's already a good player. And he's trying to improve his game and be productive for us. So that's great. And we'll work on it. We'll keep working on it.

Q. Do you think you can switch your outfield?

MATT WILLIAMS: I think they play everywhere all the time, anyway. Look at Harp, there's days where he played center. Not many of them, because deny arrested played most of the time. But there were days. In that regard I think we can do some of that, yeah. I think if we look at our ballpark, played 81 games in that ballpark, we have to take that into account, as Winter Meetings. Who fits better, where, on an every day basis. Is a question we ask ourselves all the time. I would imagine that Jayson would play some right and some left, depending on the day. And Harp would be the same.

Q. As you went back and looked at Drew's entire season, how do you strike a balance between what you saw over the full season, regular season, versus what you saw in two postseason games, a much smaller sample?

MATT WILLIAMS: If I look at it I say to myself, okay, he came in for a save situation with a man on first and he was perfect, up until that point. That's what I look at. Nobody's ever going to be perfect. And nobody's ever going to get everybody out or get a hit every time up. So I don't look at it that way, I can't break those up. I look at the man and I look at the ability to get the people out and his track record going in. He stepped in in the middle of the season and went from a seventh inning guy to a ninth inning guy and was phenomenal. That's what I look at. Every time we asked him to go out there and close a game he was perfect. He did it. And that's all I can evaluate. Am I confident in handing him the ball in the 9th? Yeah. Sure. Because he's really good at it. Am I confident doing the same with Clip if need be? Of course. Because he's done it and he's had success and he's been there before. So, yeah. I mean I look at the whole and say, man, he's pretty good. A pretty good pitcher.

Q. When you went around the diamond and you were listing various guys at different positions, there's a lot of established guys there, every day type of players, and in the rotation as well, established guys. As we look toward spring, what competitions are you excited to see, and maybe some younger guys or some guys who didn't play every day you're excited to see compete?

MATT WILLIAMS: Well, we had an opportunity against Steven Souza in the Big Leagues last year. He was impressive. I think the improvements that he made and the difference between him in Spring Training as opposed to September were huge improvements. Spring Training I saw power. I saw athleticism. I saw the ability to do a lot of things in the ball field. In September I saw a baseball player. A guy that had a year of Triple A experience, had great success and a guy hungry to take the next step. So the differences between spring and September are subtle things, but stuff that I noticed, anyway. He'd take the 2 1 pitch to get in a 3 1 count. He wouldn't swing at the 2 1 breaking ball or ball off the plate, so he could get in a better count to hit. Those type of things will do nothing but help him be a great player. When he hits the ball it stays hit. He hit some long homers. All those intangibles and all those things are there, it's just a question of him getting an opportunity. So it will be interesting to see where he's at this year, coming into spring, as opposed to where he was last year. He's got a chance to make our team. That's great. With regard to the pitching, A.J. Cole had a great year. Certainly Blake Treinen and Aaron Barrett were great for us all season long. Their maturity has taken that next step. So I mean there's lots of guys I want to see, I want to look at. I'm going to get a chance to look at Difo probably a lot. That's great. He had a fantastic season. All those guys are important to us, not only for this year, but ongoing. So I'm excited to get there.

Q. Where do you think Souza fits?

MATT WILLIAMS: I think Souza could fit anywhere. For next year? I think he fits certainly has a chance to be on our club and be one of our guys that is on the team. It all depends on how the roster shakes out, how all of that happens. But health, of course, is always an issue. And we have to look at that, too. But I think Steven is ready to take that next step and play in the Big Leagues. I think he's proven everything he can prove and he's ready to go do that. I'm excited about that for him.