Nats skipper Dave Martinez spoke with reporters on a conference call this morning and, when asked whether there have been any talks regarding his contract status, replied with a simple, “Nothing” (Twitter link via Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington). The 2020 season is the final guaranteed year on Martinez’s contract, although the Nats do hold a club option on the 2021 season.
It’s not surprising to hear that there have been no talks during the pandemic shutdown, but it’s a bit curious that the two sides hadn’t spoken about a new deal earlier in the spring. The 55-year-old Martinez, after all, was at the helm for one of the most remarkable turnarounds any team has made in recent memory. In the absence of an extension, the Nats could’ve perhaps picked up Martinez’s 2021 option in advance; such measures are fairly common throughout the league (particularly for winning managers) in order to spare managers the dreaded “lame duck” status and the frequent questions and speculation that accompany such contractual uncertainty.
Then again, the Nationals aren’t anything close to a typical organization with regard to how they handle their managers. Martinez, for instance, became the sixth man to manage a Nationals game in an eight-year span (2011-18) when he was hired and took the field for the first time. No Nationals manager has ever lasted more than three seasons on the job, and in addition to generally having a short leash with managers, the Nats have a reputation for not compensating their skippers as well as other clubs throughout the league. (Recall that the team wanted to hire Bud Black to manage in the 2015-16 offseason but made him only a one-year, $1.6MM offer despite a nine-year run as a well-regarded manager in San Diego.)
If anyone were to buck those trends, it’s easy to imagine Martinez being the man to do so. His Nats famously surged back from a 19-31 start to the 2019 season to capture the franchise’s first World Series win and finished above .500 the season prior as well. Logically speaking, one would expect Martinez to stick around for at least the 2021 season, but the Nats’ track record in this arena illustrates that they’re difficult to predict. As the Washington Post’s Barry Svrluga highlighted in early March, general manager Mike Rizzo is in a similar spot (minus the club option), but ownership has seemingly yet to make any sort of final decision on its organization’s leaders.