Nationals plan to hire Matt Williams as next manager (updated)

The Nationals likely won’t make an announcement on who has been hired as their next manager until after the World Series has come to an end, but they’ve already made their selection.

The Nats plan to hire Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams to replace Davey Johnson as their new skipper, a source familiar with the situation confirms.’s Ken Rosenthal was first to report the expected hire.

In addition to hiring Williams, the Nats will try to keep Randy Knorr on as bench coach, this despite the fact that Knorr interviewed for the managerial position and apparently came up short.

From the get-go, Williams has seemed to be favorite for the managerial job, largely because of his relationship with general manager Mike Rizzo. The two men know each other from their days together in Arizona, when Williams was a player and Rizzo was the Diamondbacks’ scouting director.

Rizzo has long held Williams, a five-time All-Star as a player, in high regard. Known for his intensity and preparation, Williams has been a coach with the Diamondbacks for the last four years, serving as first base coach before moving into the third base coach’s box in 2011. He also managed in the Arizona Fall League last year, leading the Salt River Rafters to the AFL East Division Title. Anthony Rendon, Cole Kimball and Matt Skole were among the Nationals prospects on that team.

If hired, Williams would become the first player named in the Mitchell Report to be named a major league manager. The San Francisco Chronicle reported back in 2007 that Williams purchased $11,600 worth of human growth hormone, steroids and other drugs from a Florida clinic in 2002.

Williams told the Chronicle in 2007 that a doctor advised him to use HGH to treat an ankle injury he suffered during spring training in 2002, but said that he stopped taking HGH because he did not like its effects. Williams retired as a player in 2003.

The Nationals’ attempts to keep Knorr on as the team’s bench coach, a role he has held for the last two seasons, are likely led by the fact that he was many players’ top choice to land the managerial job. Knorr has managed many of the Nationals’ players in the minor leagues and is familiar with all aspects the organization, having been with the Nats since 2005.

Many players had said that they hoped Knorr would become the team’s next manager because of the trust that they’ve built up with him, as well as the fact that they wanted some continuity within the organization.

If Rizzo is going with an outside hire by bringing in Williams as the team’s next manager, trying to maintain some sense of continuity by asking Knorr to come back seems smart. He can help bring Williams up to speed from a talent-evaluation perspective and would still be around as a trusted outlet for players to go to.

It remains to be seen whether Knorr would be open to returning as bench coach if he is indeed passed over for the managerial job, a position that he had been shooting for.

In addition to Williams and Knorr, Nationals third base coach Trent Jewett, Padres executive Brad Ausmus and Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale are known to have interviewed for the Nats’ managerial job.

If Williams is indeed Rizzo’s choice as manager, that also brings into question the future of the other coaches the Nationals currently have on staff. Pitching coach Steve McCatty has a great rapport with many players and the Nats’ offensive numbers improved after Rick Schu took over as hitting coach in July, but new managers typically prefer to pick the coaches on their staff, instead of getting stuck with team-chosen coaches with whom they aren’t sure they’ll mesh.

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