A multiyear contract extension for Dave Martinez means dugout stability the Washington Nationals have never had. Next spring, Martinez will become the first manager in club history to enter a fourth season. None of the other six completed three years. None of them signed a contract extension, which Martinez did this weekend to remain in the job through at least 2022, according to a person with knowledge of the terms.
But beyond that, the Nationals are choosing to not publicly release the length of Martinez’s new deal. When they hired him in October 2017, they announced a three-year contract with an option for 2021 — the same option they tore up in negotiations this month. Then Saturday, a few hours after the team called it a multiyear extension in a news release, General Manager Mike Rizzo didn’t talk specifics.
“We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” Rizzo said on a video conference call with reporters, Martinez sitting to his left. “That’s all we want to say about terms because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”
“For me, it’s about stability,” Martinez added before his team’s doubleheader sweep of the New York Mets on Saturday. The first win, 4-3, officially eliminated the Mets from playoff condition. The second, 5-3, bumped the Nationals’ record to 25-34.
“We showed that here by . . . them signing Mike again and then they turn around and sign me long-term,” Martinez went on. “What I loved about everything is the players, all the players coming in and talking. We sat around last night for a while — just how happy they were that they know that I’m going to be here for a while and it’s something that’s consistent.”
When asked why this was different from announcing a player’s contract length, which the Nationals typically do, Rizzo pointed to websites that compile information on player contracts through media reports. There are no such sites for managers, coaches or front-office executives, and Rizzo added that both he and Martinez prefer to not have their salaries or contract lengths disclosed.
USA Today reported that Martinez received a three-year, $7.5 million extension that will pay him $2.5 million per season. The Nationals declined to comment on those figures, and no other outlet has confirmed them or offered alternative details. As Rizzo explained the timing of Martinez’s extension and why the club didn’t just pick up its option for 2021, he mentioned wanting Martinez to avoid a “lame-duck situation.”
It is clear that Martinez has assurance for next season and the one after it. But his status gets murky after 2022, making it hard for fans to know when the next “lame-duck situation” could be near. Rizzo’s new contract runs through 2023. When pressed on whether their contracts cover the same time period, he again noted that the Nationals don’t put that information out.
On Sept. 6, the day his extension was announced, Rizzo expressed interest in “negotiating a longer-term deal” with Martinez. Twenty days later, they sat side-by-side, both wearing World Series rings, and vowed to improve on this down season.
“Walking into a 2021 season with a manager with a lame-duck situation with one year didn’t make a lot of sense to me strategically and roster creation-wise,” Rizzo said. “I thought it was important to get it done before the season ended because we have a lot of work to do immediately following the last out of the last game.”
The Nationals eased toward that Saturday, starting with a matchup between Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, was putting the last touches on a weird year. The Mets’ ace, vying for his third straight Cy Young, tried to keep the Mets’ slim playoff hopes alive. They engaged in a duel that, after 5 1/2 innings, ended in a stalemate.
New York nudged ahead when Wilson Ramos hit a two-run homer in the third. The Nationals scratched back when Andrew Stevenson lined a solo shot off deGrom in the bottom half. Then, after Amed Rosario lifted a solo blast in the fourth, Washington scored on a wild pitch before Stevenson hit an inside-the-park home run to tie it.
It came in the fifth, once Mets left fielder Dominic Smith tracked the ball into the corner and fell face-first into the wall. He was slow to get up, permitting Stevenson to reach home without a throw. Smith stayed in the game after speaking with trainers, and deGrom soon finished his outing at 113 pitches. Scherzer would exit at 109, lasting an inning longer, and capped his season with back-to-back strikeouts to strand two runners.
That set the Nationals up to take their first lead in the bottom of the sixth. They buried the Mets once Josh Harrison brought in Brock Holt with a line drive to right, then Will Harris recorded the final three outs. And in the nightcap, the Nationals cruised behind five third-inning runs off Mets starter Rick Porcello.
“I was getting beat early in those situations, where I’m deep in the game and when the game is on the line and I haven’t come through,” said Scherzer, who closed the year with a 3.74 ERA in 67 1/3 innings. “But I feel like in the last two outings, I’ve been in those situations now and I’m executing late. It just stinks that the year is over.”
Scherzer’s seven-year contract runs through the end of 2021. Since joining the Nationals in 2015, he has played for Matt Williams, Dusty Baker and Martinez. He noted Saturday that Martinez has developed into his favorite manager, quickly saying that’s no slight to Bob Melvin or Jim Leyland. Martinez just has a way of loosening the clubhouse, letting his veterans police it and making everyone feel calm.
The players notice the strides he has made in the job. Scherzer pointed to the buttons Martinez pressed throughout the 2019 title run. The ace, like Rizzo, has spent hours chatting with Martinez in the manager’s office, plotting their next way to gain an edge. They’ll now resume those conversations soon, for at least another year.
“He’s everything you want in a manger,” Scherzer said. “That’s why I’m happy the organization was able to sign him back. He just has the feel for the game.”
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