Davey Johnson close to finalizing return to Nationals in 2013

Davey Johnson

(Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press)

The Nationals and Manager Davey Johnson are close to an official agreement on a contract to bring back Johnson for the 2013 season, General Manager Mike Rizzo said. The deal could be finalized as soon as tonight.

“I’m thinking anytime now,” Rizzo said this afternoon at the general mangers meetings in Indian Wells, Calf. “Soon.”

Earlier today, a person familiar with the talks said the Nationals and Johnson were “real close” to reaching a deal.

The deal will conclude lengthy but amicable negotiations that changed the language of Johnson’s pact with the Nationals. He had been under contract as a consultant for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but now he is line to receive a salary bump and the official position of manager.

Even as the talks progressed, Rizzo never expected any other conclusion than Johnson returning for his second full season in the Nationals’ dugout. Still, finishing the deal will allow the team to move forward with the rest of its offseason.

“We’ve been talking strategies, players, stuff like that,” Rizzo said. “It’ll clear everything off the table except for what we’ve been trying to do.”

The first, small step will be replacing third base coach Bo Porter, who moved on to manage the Houston Astros. Rizzo said the decision will be Johnson’s and that they have already discussed the candidates. The decision could come “swiftly” after Johnson’s contract is resolved, Rizzo said.

In his first full season as Nationals manager, Johnson guided them to 98 wins and the National League East title, enough to make him one of three finalists for the NL manager of the year award to be announced next week. He said he had “unfinished business” in 2013 after the Nationals bowed out in a wrenching Game 5 NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Johnson, who turns 70 in January, will again be the oldest manager in baseball.

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