More changes are coming to the Washington Nationals coaching staff. Hitting coach Kevin Long will not be returning next season, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Long’s contract has expired after a three-year term. Chip Hale will also be moving on, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). Hale was the bench coach when the Nats won the World Series in 2019 before moving to third base this season an in effort by manager Davey Martinez to keep things fresh.
This now makes three key members of the Nationals’ coaching staff who will not be returning. Pitching coach Paul Menhart was also told that his contract would not be renewed. According to Menhart, manager Davey Martinez has the opportunity to hand-pick his coaching staff for the first time since taking over as Nationals manager. It’s unclear if that’s the reason that Martinez is moving on from Long and Hale, but it certainly seems that way.
Hale was initially brought in by GM Mike Rizzo to provide a veteran hand on the bench while Martinez got his feet wet in his first role as manager. After three seasons and a World Series ring, it appears Martinez and the Nationals believe he’s ready to ride without supervision, so to speak. Hale previously managed the Diamondbacks from 2015 to 2016 and served as bench coach to Bob Melvin of the Athletics for three seasons from 2012 to 2014.
Long got his first major-league gig as a hitting coach for the Yankees back in 2007. He stayed in that role for eight seasons before embarking on a three-year term with the Mets. The conclusion of that contract brought him to Washington.
The Nationals offense produced just 3.2 fWAR as a team in 2020, a mark that ranks 27th in the majors. That’s a fairly disappointing outcome, especially considering Juan Soto and Trea Turner combined to produce 5.1 fWAR. But they also had a whopping 10 players rack up negative measures of fWAR, including free agent acquisition Eric Thames (-0.7 fWAR), World Series hero Howie Kendrick (-0.3 fWAR), and a trio of young bats they hope soon to develop into cornerstones: Victor Robles (-0.5 fWAR), Luis Garcia (-0.3 fWAR), and Carter Kieboom (-0.3 fWAR).
Even so, the club still finished 10th in the majors with 293 runs scored. Since the two-time World-Series-winning hitting coach took over in Washington, Nationals teams have scored the 7th-most runs in the majors while slashing .260/.338/.436, good for a 102 wRC+.