The Nationals and Davey Martinez have been in active discussions about a new contract, and general manager Mike Rizzo is “optimistic” a deal will be struck to keep his World Series-winning manager with the organization beyond the 2021 season.
“We’ve been in conversations with his representation, and I feel optimistic that we will get something done,” Rizzo said today during a Zoom session with reporters before the Nats’ series finale against the Braves. “It’s something that I want to happen, and I think Davey wants the same end result.”
The Nationals hold a $1.2 million club option on Martinez for the 2021 season, which was tacked onto the original three-year deal he signed in October 2017. Rizzo, though, stated publicly last week he prefers not to pick up the option and instead sign Martinez to a new, longer-term contract.
Rizzo, who just agreed to his own three-year extension that will keep him in the GM role through the 2023 season, has made it clear he wants Martinez to remain by his side as they attempt to build off their 2019 championship. Martinez already is set to become the first in Nationals history to complete three seasons as manager, and if he returns next year he’ll pass Manny Acta with his 412th game managed in early May.
At this point, the question appears to be one of contract terms, not of the club’s desire to retain Martinez.
“We’re in conversations right now,” Rizzo said. “We’re not going to talk about negotiations or that. But we’re talking, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Other tidbits from Rizzo’s pregame session ...
* The Nationals are planning to hold a modified fall instructional league at their spring training complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., though those plans haven’t been finalized yet.
The camp would be intended for top prospects, 2020 draft picks and other young players who need extra work after a season in which there were no minor leagues. Some players who have been at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg will be included, but plenty others who haven’t had a chance to play at all this summer will take part in the planned camp.
“Our goal is to have a full instructional league - I’m not even sure what they’re calling it this year, but some type of instructional league - in West Palm. There’s still a lot of hoops that we have to jump through, but our plan is to do that. We think it’s extremely important for us to get some of our prospects some type of playing, to get our eyes on them before spring training next year.”
* Though he didn’t rule out the possibility entirely, Rizzo all but said the club won’t be promoting recent first-round draft picks Jackson Rutledge or Cade Cavalli to make their big league debuts this month.
With the Nationals falling out of the playoff race and with players not accruing service time if they’re called up this late in the season, the organization could choose to see some top young pitching prospects face big league hitters.
Rizzo, though, made it clear he wouldn’t do something like that unless he felt a prospect legitimately was ready for it.
“We don’t pop anybody up to the big leagues,” he said. “It’s a decision that’s well thought out and well-crafted by many, many people. That entails scouting, player development people, experience. Are they ready for the big leagues? We’ve never had an issue with starting anybody’s clock, and that’s not one of the precursors to bringing a guy to the big leagues. When he gets to the big leagues, we want him to stay in the big leagues, to be ready to perform in the big leagues. And with the limited professional experience with the Rutledges and the Cavellis and those type of guys, we certainly don’t feel they’re ready to compete without some of them pitching a professional inning.”
* Rizzo confirmed that the Nationals will remain under Major League Baseball’s luxury tax threshold this year, the second straight year they will have done so after surpassing the mark in 2017 and 2018.