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Will Nationals jump onto sudden trend of handing out contract extensions?

Will Nationals jump onto sudden trend of handing out contract extensions?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- January’s barely beeping pulse inspired baseball executives to enter into two lines of thought. First, they questioned the sanity of some agents. Free agent pitchers who ended up signing one-year deals in February were forced into that position after turning down multi-year deals in December. Second, they thought the winter’s chill would prompt an embrace of contract extensions.

Little did they know how right they were.

Nolan Arenado. Blake Snell. Mike Trout. Paul Goldschmidt. Chris Sale.

Whit Merrifield. Alex Bregman. Eloy Jimenez.  Jose Leclerc. Miles Mikolas.

From young to old, established to projected, pitcher to position player. Extensions have hit across every level of the market, flipping baseball’s expenditures from limited to vast. And it has a direct correlation to the Nationals.

Washington is trying to work an extension with Anthony Rendon.

General manager Mike Rizzo said Saturday there’s “nothing new” in negotiations, but both sides continue to be open to it. The Nationals have approached Trea Turner about an extension in the past. When it was suggested, half-jokingly during the offseason, that it may be time to talk to Juan Soto about an extension, an executive suggested the idea was not as far-fetched as it sounds.

Just like the current transition to extensions above free agency includes the gamut of players, options for the Nationals run from young to old. Soto and Victor Robles could be targeted to have their arbitration years bought out in exchange for a give of possible free agency seasons. Turner has three arbitration years remaining. Scherzer has two years remaining on his contract following this season. Justin Verlander’s percolating extension -- recent reports pegged it at two years, $66 million -- suddenly becomes a model for Scherzer.

The shift is rapid and seismic.

“It doesn't surprise me at all,” Rizzo said. “Good players, you're trying to lock up your good players and I think that when you treat them fairly and both sides can agree on something, I think it's good for the game."

Suggestions Stephen Strasburg left a lot of money on the table immediately accompanied his surprise contract extension in 2016. Reasons why Strasburg, a Scott Boras client, chose an opt-out laden deal well before free agency included comfort and familiarity. The money was also good: $175 million. It’s right in line with what Patrick Corbin received this offseason, three years after Strasburg opted for an extension. The deal looks more than palatable now.

What’s interesting is it remains an outlier because of the agent involved. Boras is not prone to extensions. Of the 18 players to sign extensions this calendar year, none are Boras clients, unlike so many in the Nationals clubhouse. Soto is. Rendon is. Scherzer is. Turner is not. Will Boras come along with the shift?

"I just think that players, the representatives and the players are more in-tune to what the economics of the game are now than they have ever been,” Rizzo said when asked in general why this is happening. “These guys know what they are talking about, they know what the market looks like, and I think they are making good, prudent decisions for their own personal careers."

Would Rizzo look at it with Soto and Robles?

“I think that, like I said, we have a blueprint and a plan in place and keeping your talent is a huge part of that plan,” Rizzo said. “We're open to all sorts of ideas that keep us viable and competitive for the long haul."

That includes buying out arbitration years in the right scenario.

"I think that as a rule of thumb, I think that when you buy out arbitration years, I like to get a free agent year or two tacked onto it to make that make sense to me,” Rizzo said. “But other teams do it different ways, and I think to take on the risk of buying out arbitration... it controls your payroll and you know where you're at, but I think that tacking on a free agent year shares the risk more evenly."

So, we know the internal possibilities. We know Rizzo’s stance on the idea. We also know the environment has changed. Washington has a chance to change the future with it.


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Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Baseball may not yet be close to returning to action, but Nationals manager Davey Martinez hasn’t given up hope that the 2020 season will be salvaged after the start pf the campaign was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I do believe that we'll have a season, but at this particular moment, for me and for our players, our main concern is the well-being of families, friends, fans,” Martinez told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “We need to get out of this healthy and ready to go.”

This is the seventh time MLB has had to cut into a season. The last time it happened was 1994-95, when a strike by the players forced the league to cancel ’94 World Series. Martinez was a member of the San Francisco Giants that season, denied a chance to make the playoffs after the season came to a halt with the Giants only three games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

But when asked if he had any past experiences helping him get through the pandemic that’s forced governors across the U.S. to issue stay-at-home orders, Martinez pointed to another traumatic event that shook both baseball and the country.

“For me, 9/11,” Martinez said. “I am from New York and I have family in New York. I understood what everybody was going through. But New York rebounded, and baseball came back and took everybody in. I was playing with Atlanta and we played the Mets in that first game [in New York after 9/11].

“We were winning that game, and all of a sudden [Mike] Piazza hits the home run -- and it was almost a sigh of relief for everybody. It really was. That moment, watching the ball go over the fence. ... I know we're all so competitive and we all want to win, but in that particular moment for me, it was like, ‘You know what, this is what the game's all about. Win or lose, this is what the game is all about.’ Watching and listening to the fans stand up and cheer like they did, it was phenomenal.”

While stuck at his home in Tennessee, Martinez has helped pass the time by driving around his property on a four-wheeler and reaching out to his players—two or three a day. He asks them about their families, trying to gauge what their mindsets are because “all of a sudden what you love to do this time of year is gone.”

“I believe there will be baseball,” Martinez said “I can't put a finger on when, but we're going to step back on that field and we're going to have a lot of fun. I tell the boys, think of it this way, we hold the trophy for a lot longer than anybody else.”

As the defending World Series champions, the Nationals have been able to at least take solace in the fact that a banner-raising ceremony and ring presentation await them when they return to D.C. Until then, all Martinez can do is bunker down and wait things out along with the rest of the world.

“I think about that moment when we come back and get those beautiful rings and put up that banner in the stadium,” Martinez said. “It's still going to be there no matter what when we get back. But under these circumstances, I can't think about anything else but the safety of the people and our love for this country.”

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Nationals leave spring training facility after it is shut down, converted to coronavirus test site

Nationals leave spring training facility after it is shut down, converted to coronavirus test site

The Washington Nationals’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, has been shut down and converted into a coronavirus testing facility.

All 13 players and the accompanying team staff who were working at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches -- the shared spring training home of the Nationals and Houston Astros -- dispersed once Florida governor Ron DeSantis ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.

“Our medical staff is still working on finding some off-site facilities for some players,” Mike Rizzo said Monday on a conference call. “The handful of players that are rehabbing from injuries from last season... it’s a very, very small list, and obviously the injuries were a long time ago. It’s not something that’s of essential importance, and obviously the safety and the health of all the staff and all the players is paramount. Again, we are in constant communication with all players about their health and their training.”

Turning the facility over for use by the national guard was among the provisions when it was constructed, then opened, in 2017.

“The majority of the 13 players that were in West Palm have places here,” Rizzo said. “So they’re just at their home. They’re isolating themselves and trying to find some way to continue their throwing programs and their workout programs at their own homes or facilities. We still do have several minor league players, that we deemed it was unsafe to go back to their home countries, here in West Palm Beach. We continue to take care of them and put them up at one of the local hotels, as we’ll continue to do until we start back up playing.”

Nationals Park is also closed. Players already in Washington who need rehabilitation treatment can go there, but no training is taking place.

Rizzo also reiterated that no one on the roster has shown symptoms of coronavirus. So, none have been tested.

Otherwise, the Nationals are waiting and maintaining like everyone else.

“As far as the training and preparing, all of our pitchers have been in contact with Paul Menhart, our pitching coach,” Rizzo said. “They are following their throwing programs and our hitters alike have been in constant contact with Kevin Long and Pat Roessler. They all have their plans in place. There are some kind of inventive ways that they’re keeping in shape and conditioning and staying as ready as they can to participate in baseball whenever that takes place.

“Many industries are in the same situation as we are. We’re doing the best we can, we have a lot of unknowns, we continue to rely on the CDC, the World Health Organization and MLB as our resources. We are certainly going to follow their protocols and their recommendations to the letter. And as the commissioner recently said, when it’s safe to play baseball, baseball will be back, and our fans will be back, and it will be part of the recovery process in the country. But safety and health is the paramount.”

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