Nationals

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says no new contract discussions, but he’s also not concerned

Nationals

WASHINGTON -- Still percolating during this strangest of seasons is the contract status of Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez.

It’s Aug. 9 and nothing has changed.

Rizzo said Sunday he has not had discussions with Nationals ownership about a contract extension. His current two-year deal ends after this season.

“I’m not worried about it,” Rizzo said Sunday. “They’ll take care of it when they deem themselves ready to take care of it. So, I haven’t given it much thought. My focus is on winning a championship here in 2020. And I think that that’s going to be our sole focus going forward.”

Martinez has a club option in his contract for a fourth season. The organization is yet to pick it up despite the team winning the World Series in 2019.

“I don’t have a timeline [for that decision],” Rizzo said. “But Davey’s deserving of one. He’s earned it. He’s a great representative of the Washington Nationals.”

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The situations carry similarities and vast differences.

Both Rizzo and Martinez can return to the negotiating table with a dash of leverage they, or their predecessors, never had. The Lerner family discarded several managers because the team failed to meet their top goal: win the World Series. Rizzo and Martinez accomplished that via a most-unlikely path in 2019. So, their side of the argument can be, “We did what you asked, now we deserve new contracts in return.”

 

The decision to pick up Martinez’s option appears to be a simple one. He will remain one of the lower-paid managers in the league, especially relative to his success, and the outcome of a 60-game season should have little impact on determining his worthiness of retaining the position for another year.

The cost would be bargain-basement. Martinez signed a three-year, $2.8 million contract with a fourth-year option for $1.2 million. He would command three times that on the open market. It’s such a team-friendly deal, the Nationals may be well-served to try to tack on two years when discussing the option, let alone promptly pulling the trigger on the option year.

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However, slow-playing negotiations is a common tactic for Nationals ownership, despite the ugly public optics of doing so.

Rizzo’s next contract is much more complicated. His expectation will be a deal that vaults him into the top five of general managers/team presidents in the sport. He has an argument for it. All the regular-season winning finally produced a championship. He’s developed prospects, executed trades well and kept a modern balance between analytics and scouts. Rizzo’s development of the baseball infrastructure in Washington has produced one of the most successful organizations in the league.

So, the Lerners have to decide if they will pay him a large amount for a long time. They have to determine if they want to quickly assure their manager will be back next year. Thus far, they have done neither.

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