Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post

With Manager Davey Johnson’s contract status still unresolved, General Manager Mike Rizzo said without ambiguity that he believes Johnson will return next season and minimized the importance of Johnson and the Nationals having yet to agree on a 2013 contract.

“I expect him to be the manager of the team,” Rizzo said.

The sides continued negotiations earlier this week, but could not finalize an agreement. Johnson is under contract for 2013 and 2014 as an adviser, but the language and salary of his current deal need to be tweaked before he can officially return to the dugout. Rizzo said he was neither surprised nor concerned the negotiations had lasted this long.

“We’re talking and we’re doing great together,” Rizzo said. “We’re doing great.” 

Rizzo said at the end of the regular season that he wanted and expected Johnson to return. Johnson has also pledged his desire to complete “unfinished business” after the 98-win Nationals suffered a brutal Game 5 defeat to the Cardinals in the NLDS. Today, Johnson was announced as one of three finalists for National League Manager of the Year.

In the days after the loss, Johnson said waiting until November to resolve his contract would not bother him. Johnson, still feisty as he approaches his 70th birthday in January, has found ways to occupy himself as he waits.

“I know he was in a fishing tournament,” Rizzo said. “And he won the damn tournament.”