The Nationals made it official Monday morning: Dave Martinez will be their next manager. He agreed to a three-year deal with an option for a fourth.
In the release, the Nationals hit all the usual points. Managing principal owner Ted Lerner welcomed Martinez. General Manager Mike Rizzo praised him as a “progressive” option who “embraces the analytical side of the game.” Everyone is excited. A new era is beginning.
But while securing a new manager represented the most high-profile order of business for this organization this offseason, Monday’s announcement does not signal a slowdown. Now, the Nationals must build a coaching staff, and do so after many of the more high-profile candidates have signed elsewhere. While Dusty Baker had years of managerial staffs from which to choose, Martinez has never been a big league manager, and has not yet had to build one.
The Nationals likely will not give him total free rein to do so. They hired Mike Maddux before the 2016 season, a process that began before the Nationals hired Baker. But Rizzo will almost certainly allow Martinez to surround himself with familiar faces. The question is how much continuity the Nationals will want between Baker’s staff and the new one. When the Nationals brought in Matt Williams, they kept longtime Nationals staffers such as Randy Knorr and Matt LeCroy to foster continuity. When they fired Williams, they kept hitting coach Rick Schu and third base coach Bob Henley to serve on Baker’s staff. Continuity has mattered before, and likely will again.
But Maddux is gone to the Cardinals, meaning there will be turnover with the pitching staff he learned inside and out for the past two seasons. High-profile pitching coach options such as Jim Hickey and Martinez’s former colleague in Chicago, Chris Bosio, already have been hired. Other options exist, of course. But the choices are more limited now than they were a week ago, and the Nationals have decisions to make.
Washington does not need to fill out its coaching staff immediately, and will likely wait until after Martinez is officially introduced — later this week, after the World Series — to start filling vacancies. The general manager meetings are in two weeks, and those often offer the opportunity to interview many candidates at once. When the Nationals hired Baker, they did not fill out his coaching staff until those meetings.
Besides the coaching staff, the general offseason machinations begin this week, too. Free agency begins the day after the World Series. Trades become fair game, too. The Nationals could be hunting starting pitching, a reliable infielder to serve as insurance for injured Daniel Murphy, bullpen help and a brand new bench. They are also beginning this offseason after crossing the luxury tax threshold for the first time, which could complicate their dealings.
For now, the biggest story of their offseason has reached a resolution. But the Nationals have much more to address. The work is just beginning.
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