Nationals manager Dave Martinez and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo are each in the final guaranteed year of their respective contracts, according to a report from Jesse Dougherty and Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post.
The initial reporting on the 2020 extension for Martinez said that it was a three-year deal, which would cover the seasons through 2023. However, when the team officially announced the extension, they described it merely as a “multi-year” deal. According to this new report, the extension was actually for two years plus a club option for 2023. Asked about the situation, Martinez neither confirmed nor denied the report. “I just want people to know that I love it here and I want to be here,” he said. “I am excited for what we’re building and want to see it through for another championship.”
These details only add to the uncertainty for an organization that’s already immersed in it. The club had an incredible eight-year run from 2012-2019, which included a winning record in each year, five postseason appearances and was capped off by a World Series championship in 2019. Since then, though, the club slumped through a mediocre showing in both 2020 and 2021, the latter of those seasons including a massive sell-off of veteran talent for younger, unproven players.
Furthermore, just as the current season was beginning, a report emerged that the Lerner family are considering selling the club. On the field, the Nats are currently holding a record of 12-26, a winning percentage worse than every team in the majors except for the Reds.
This is the fifth season at the helm for Martinez, who was hired prior to the 2018 campaign. Rizzo has been a part of the club even longer, having been hired as assistant general manager in 2006. It appears that neither is guaranteed to be returning in the same role next year, making the future wide open for the club in many ways. After last year’s fire sale, they have only two players on the books beyond this season. Patrick Corbin’s deal runs through 2024, while Stephen Strasburg’s goes through 2026.
Of course, the big ticking time bomb in the room is Juan Soto, who can be controlled via arbitration through 2024. The Nationals are naturally interested in extending him, but actually doing so might be difficult. Soto’s agent Scott Boras discussed the matter in November. “The first thing that’s going to have to happen is that he knows that he’s working with an ownership that’s going to annually try to compete and win,” Boras said. “And then I think once he knows that, then he’ll be ready to sit down and talk whenever they choose to talk.” It was later reported that Soto and his camp turned down a 13-year, $350 contract offer from the Nats prior to the lockout. A player’s earning power only increases as they approach free agency, meaning that the price tag on locking Soto up long-term will only continue growing over the coming seasons, especially if he continues playing well. Through 38 games this year, he’s hitting .254/.387/.478, 146 wRC+.
That leaves the club with about two years and five months to convince Soto to stay. Between now and then, there’s very little certainty about who else will be on the team, who will be in the manager’s seat, who will be running the front office or even who will own the club.