Executives like Mike Rizzo are what keep the hot stove burning.
On Friday afternoon, two days before the start of MLB's annual winter meetings in Rizzo's backyard, the Washington Nationals general manager acquired catcher Derek Norris from the San Diego Padres in exchange for minor league pitcher Pedro Avila. Even though the swap solidifies Washington's backstop situation and basically takes them out of the running for free agent Matt Wieters, you can expect Rizzo and the Nats to be plenty active going forward.
A 2007 fourth-round pick of the Nationals, Norris -- who hit .186 last season but was an All-Star with Oakland in 2014 -- fills the void created by the departure of free agent Wilson Ramos. More accurately, he'll try to fill that void. It'll be nearly impossible for Washington to replace the offensive production that Ramos -- who had a career year, hitting .307 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs -- gave them last season.
Still, Norris gives the Nats a reliable right-handed hitting veteran to go along with switch-hitting backup Jose Lobaton, who's better from the left side. The Norris acquisition should also allow Rizzo to focus more of his attention -- and the team's money -- on addressing other needs.
At this point, there's no telling exactly what kind of contract Wieters will sign. But you can be darned sure he'll outearn Norris by a bunch. Last season with the Baltimore Orioles, Wieters made $15.8 million. Even though he didn't have his best year, he's still in line to get a multiyear deal with an average value somewhere in the same neighborhood. Meanwhile, Norris earned $2.8 million with San Diego and is projected to get about $4 million in arbitration for the coming season. In other words, he's roughly $10 million cheaper per year than Wieters, both this season and next, the final year of Norris' contract.
There's no telling where exactly the Nationals will apply those savings, but given Rizzo's history for making offseason splashes -- he inked Max Scherzer in 2014 and Daniel Murphy last year -- and given that Washington is built to win now, it's a safe assumption that the funds will be put to good use, probably sooner rather than later.
Maybe it's to finalize the deal that everyone has been whispering about over the last couple days, the one that could bring Pittsburgh Pirates superstar Andrew McCutchen to D.C. Maybe it's to sign one of the big three free-agent closers (Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, Mark Melancon). Maybe it's both.
Regardless, this much is for sure: Rizzo and the Nats aren't done dealing.