After firing Matt Williams as manager on Monday morning, the Nats will undergo a managerial search for the second time in two years. The last time this happened it took them over three weeks to find Davey Johnson's replacement, when Williams was hired for the job in October of 2013.
The first step for the Nationals is coming up with a list of names to pursue, a process they will begin on Monday afternoon. That group could include former managers who boast experience like Bud Black and Rod Gardenhire. They could also circle back to Cal Ripken, Jr., who was linked to the job the last time around and has spoken publicly about his interest in managing.
But what about managers around the league who are already under contract? With perhaps no obvious candidate on the free market, could they try to do what the Chicago Cubs did last offseason when they scooped Joe Maddon from the Tampa Bay Rays?
There are two names currently in manager jobs around baseball who boast far better résumés than Black, Gardenhire and Ripken, and who each have opt-out clauses in their contracts. Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia would be names, and both have led teams to World Series championships.
Francona, in fact, has a very similar contract clause to what Maddon had. Like Maddon, who was able to leave because of the departure of his GM Andrew Friedman in Tampa, Francona can opt out now that Mark Shapiro left the Indians for the Blue Jays. Francona wanted the opt-out clause in his contract when he agreed to coach the Indians in case this very event occurred because of his close relationship with Shapiro. Shapiro was pivotal in convincing him to take the position.
Francona, for what it's worth, has indicated he would not use that clause as leverage to get a new job. But the prospect of having a two-time World Series-winning manager - who happened to play most of his MLB career with the Expos - could entice the Nationals.
Francona is one of the most accomplished managers in baseball. His teams have finished with winning records in each of his last 11 seasons as skipper. Before coaching Cleveland his Red Sox teams averaged 93 wins in eight seasons and never posted a losing record.
Scioscia also has an opt-out clause in his contract. He did, however, announce on Sunday he does not plan to opt out of his deal with the Angels, despite L.A. falling short of the playoffs this season.
Scioscia led the Angels to a World Series title in 2002. His Angels have posted 12 winning seasons in his 16 total years at the helm. His team also went through front office changes recently, as GM Jerry DiPoto resigned in July.
Both Francona and Scioscia are two of the biggest names in coaching and the Nationals remain an attractive destination for any manager looking for a new job. The Nats have also indicated that experience will be a big factor in their decision this time around.
MLB teams can also trade for managers, as the Red Sox did in 2012 when they acquired John Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays. The cost in that deal was big league infielder Mike Aviles.
There are hurdles to jump, given they both coaches under contract. But, as the Cubs showed last offseason, that does not necessarily rule them out as candidates.