Nationals manager Dave Martinez agrees to a two-year extension

According to a person familiar with the situation, the Washington Nationals have agreed a two-year extension with Dave Martinez, ending speculation about who will lead the team beyond this season. The deal includes a club option for a third year, which could extend to 2026, according to a person with knowledge of the terms.

Martinez, 58, has a 378-455 Record with Washington. He started in 2018, a year before leading the team to the World Series title, and oversaw the ongoing Nationals rebuild.

Just like last summer, the owner is opting for safety in one of his most prominent positions and believes the best way forward — and the best option amid a stalled sales process — is to keep Martinez in place. And if they apply that higher up, an extension for general manager Mike Rizzo could be up next. the athlete reported Monday that Rizzo and the Nationals were close to a deal. According to a person familiar with the talks, talks between Rizzo and the Lerner family are still ongoing, with no resolution as of Monday afternoon. Rizzo was the Lerner family's first employee in 2006 and took charge of baseball operations in 2009.

People are counting on Dave Martinez. He knows it.

The team, which had Monday off, has struggled since the title season and finished bottom for the past three years the National League East. But in the second full year of their rebuild, the Nationals have exceeded expectations over the past six weeks. After winning two of three games against the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend, they have won seven of nine series and are 21-14 in their last 35 games, the third-best tally in the Netherlands in that span. Washington's farming system has also turned around thanks to increased investment in player development — plus last summer's Juan Soto trade and draft outfielder Dylan Crews with the No. 2 overall pick in the July draft, the result of 107 lost games in the year 2022.

According to one person familiar with the decision-making process, Martinez's renewal — and possibly Rizzo's as well — is more about instilling stability in potential buyers than rewarding recent successes. But the person, a club official, noted that the strong second half certainly didn't hurt Martinez or Rizzo to continue. The Athletic was the first to report Martinez's extension.

According to several people familiar with internal discussions about a sale, the list of potential buyers who may be interested in these decisions is short at this time. Ted Leonsis, owner of the Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics, remains the main contender (and, according to some sources, the only credible) contender. But nearly a year after Leonsis bid more than $2 billion for the Nationals, the team remains in the hands of the Lerner family.

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The reasons for the hold are complicated, say people familiar with the Lerners' mindset, who still point to the ongoing uncertainty about future TV earnings as a remaining obstacle for any shopper. But these people say they still expect the Lerners to sell the team if Leonsis can meet their asking price. So the question seems to be how much higher do they need him – and whether Leonsis, who recently bolstered Monumental Sports' capital with an investment from the Qatari Investment Fund, will be willing to go there.

Since winning the World Series together in 2019, Martinez and Rizzo have basically been a package deal. Towards the end of the 2020 season, Rizzo signed a contract extension in early September and Martinez received his contract extension at the end of the month. Both had a term of two years plus a club option for a third year. Last summer, just before the July 15 deadline to decide on those options, the team announced it would take them and keep Martinez and Rizzo for at least one more season.

When judging Rizzo Martinez publicly, he notes that the team has always played hard for him, regardless of the results or the level of talent in the roster. According to a person familiar with their view of Martinez, ownership has often felt the same way, although the Lerner family remains more focused on the business side and a possible sale.

With his recent extension, Martinez should maintain the influence he has built on the staff over the years. When he took the job, the trainers were a mix of his and Rizzo's favorites. But in the years since, Martinez has promoted Tim Bogar to bench coach, promoted Henry Blanco from bullpen coach to head of catch and strategy, and was instrumental in hiring pitching coach Jim Hickey and hitting coach Darnell Coles. Bogar and Hickey are close to Martinez and their relationship grew while they were with the Tampa Bay Rays. And Martinez considers Coles and Blanco to be two of his best friends in the sport.

To evaluate Martinez and his coaches in 2023, one must look more closely at player development than wins and losses (although the Nationals are already 57-68 topping their overall win tally from last year). With their burgeoning young core, clear improvements for shortstop CJ Abrams and catcher Keibert Ruiz – at least on plate – speak for the team. However, Luis GarcĂ­a is currently a hindrance for them as the second baseman was demoted to the minors with a .656 OPS in early August.

As for the pitching team, the club will determine if Hickey is the right candidate to help Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Cade Cavalli and Jake Irvin take the next step. And then there's the supporting cast, including many players vying for a spot in the rebuild. Lane Thomas, Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Stone Garrett, Riley Adams and Jordan Weems have had strong years. Also Victor Robles before being sidelined due to previous problems.

Three Nationals contenders grow together in Harrisburg

That doesn't mean that everything went well and that not every player has fulfilled his potential. And of course, if things get dire for the Nationals, the clubhouse will look very different in the near future. After promoting Crews to Class AA Harrisburg Senators on Sunday, Washington has him, James Wood, Brady House and Robert Hassell III, each top contenders, with the same minor league partner. Starter Jackson Rutledge, the team's first-round pick in 2019, is one step down from the majors and plays for the AAA Rochester Red Wings. That's a non-exhaustive list of possibilities, all of which are fascinating, but none of which are guaranteed to work.

Since the 2021 deadline sell-off when the Nationals traded eight veterans for 12 players, Martinez has been raving about the next wave of talent pouring through the system, a wave that's only gotten stronger over the past two Julys. Then sometimes, often off-camera, he would joke that he hoped he'd be there, right there in his office, when those players arrived.

This contract does not constitute a complete guarantee that this will happen. But in a fickle sport and business, Martinez comes as close as it gets to such a goal.

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