The Washington Nationals extend Mike Rizzo and Dave Martinez to new deals. Rizzo will return as president of baseball operations, whereas Martinez is back as team manager. Mark Lerner, the principal managing owner of the Nationals, announced the moves over the weekend. The team announced they’d exercised the 2023 contract options on both. This gives the organization some stability as they look at a rebuilding project after guiding the Nationals to their first championship three years ago.
Nationals Extend Mike Rizzo and More
Not a Popular Move with Fans
Since winning the World Series in 2019, the Nationals have finished in the last two years. And the way 2022 is going, it appears they will make it three losing seasons in a row.
Rumors abound regarding the Lerner family selling the team. These are fed by their seeming decision not to spend money to improve and upgrade, sign free agents or through the draft. It’s led to fans being frustrated. Both stadium attendance and TV viewership are declining, showing their dissatisfaction.
Different Phases for Rizzo
Rizzo has overseen many different phases of this organization. He’s been with the team since 2006, serving as General Manager since 2009. After many losing seasons, the club emerged as a contender in 2012. That was due to Rizzo’s building, shoring up a strong farm system, and making quality trades to improve the team. The team was competitive for the remainder of that decade, making the playoffs five times and winning the World Series in 2019.
Hard Times Catch up
Unfortunately, Rizzo and Martinez’s fortunes have slipped since 2019. Since winning the World Series, it’s become nothing but massive sellers at the trade deadline. That, in turn, led them to their current spot, holding the fourth-worst record in baseball. Furthermore, once consistently in the top ten, their farm system is now in the bottom five.
By exercising the options on Rizzo and Martinez, the Nationals have stability—at least through next season. It gives all the players the assurance of continuity, which could ease some mental stress and help them play better.
The current coaching staff Martinez constructed this season with the addition of hitting coach Darnell Coles, first base coach Eric Young Jr., third base coach Gary DiSarcina, and bullpen coach Ricky Bones will also be around. The players have commented on what a change these coaches have brought. They have new ideas and a different approach to communication.
Juan Soto Situation
Now that Rizzo and Martinez are signed, the following situation involves Juan Soto. Soto is the club’s superstar, someone to build their future around. However, he is slated to reach free agency after the 2024 season. Recently the potential of an extension was being discussed, but he reportedly has already rejected a 13-year, $350MM offer before the lockout and another offer after.
Washington has a superstar it can build around if Soto wants to sign a long-term deal. Other potential free agents could see this team as one that wants to win and could persuade them to sign. One thing in the team’s favor is that Soto likes playing for Martinez. Extending his contract could certainly help with the Soto negotiations. The team has mentioned they have no intentions of trading him, which shows how much they want him.
Keeping Rizzo and Martinez around to continue to build the next contending club is a good move. It will be interesting to see how this move affects the team for the remainder of the season. They most likely won’t make the playoffs, but if the team shows improvement over the last half of the season, they have a chance at regaining some of their lost fan support.
We know fans are outraged at what has happened the last few years, but everyone loves a winner. With the trades they made last season to help the farm system, a good 2022 draft, and a successful resolution to the Soto situation, the Nationals might not be far off from returning to their winning ways.