MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Rizzo confident in his club heading into 2015

Nats' GM talks about exepectations, Williams' contract extention, team's pending free agents

Rizzo confident in his club heading into 2015

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals enter Spring Training with arguably the best team on paper. In 2013, the team had the slogan, "World Series or bust" and didn't make the playoffs.

Does that slogan hold true for the 2015 Nationals? Not quite. "We have high expectations, we think we have a good team and we are going to attack the regular season and then if we are fortunate enough to make the playoffs, we'll give it our best shot to get to the World Series. That's a goal for [all] 30 clubs," general manager Mike Rizzo said

The Nationals' pitchers and catchers had their first workout of the spring Saturday, but before the team got started, the team picked up manager Matt Williams' option for the 2016 season. To Rizzo, it was a no brainer to extend Williams, who guided the team to the National League East title last year.

"We want him to be around. He is a good manager. He gives us some stability and it shows how much we think he is capable of leading us to where we want to go," Rizzo said.

The team currently has four players -- Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Denard Span and Doug Fister -- who could be free agents after the '15 season. Rizzo said he isn't worried about distraction affecting those players.

"These guys are professional players" Rizzo said. "They are All-Star caliber players. They are going to attack their jobs like they always do. Those guys will have a smile on their face and a hop in their step. They are ready to take on what's in front of us for '15."

Contract talks have been quiet regarding those four players. Zimmermann already said he is willing to listen during Spring Training but not during the season. The Desmond camp and the Nationals haven't talked at all this offseason about a contract extension, according to a baseball source. The Nationals did not confirm that was the case. Desmond turned down a seven-year, $107 million contract from the Nationals prior to Spring Training last year.

Span's future will most likely depend on center fielder Michael Taylor. If he has a good season at the plate and cuts down on his strikeouts, Taylor could be the everyday center fielder by 2016. Fister has been quiet about negotiations and recently said he is focused on this season.

Rizzo signed Ryan Zimmerman to a six-year $100 million contract during the spring of 2012.

"Different players feel differently about it," Rizzo said about players negotiating contracts. "I work all year. I've negotiated during Spring Training or during the regular season. It doesn't matter to me. Certain players don't feel right doing it during the season and want to get it over with before Spring Training ends … I think it's a case by case basis."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.