Nationals exercise options for Dave Martinez and Mike Rizzo

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As uncertainty looms over the Washington Nationals — over the ownership situation, the upcoming trade deadline, Juan Soto contract talks — some of the future solidified on Saturday afternoon: Mike Rizzo and Dave Martinez will stay on until 2023.

The Nationals announced ahead of their game against the Miami Marlins that they had exercised next year’s options for both. Rizzo, Nationals general manager and president of baseball operations, has been with the team since 2009. Martinez has been the team’s manager since 2018. The property had until July 15 to decide if the pair would return, according to several people who know. of their contractual terms.

“I tried not to think about it too much, to be honest with you,” Rizzo said. “We are at work. I just assumed that was going to be the answer.

“I know we struggled, but I see some really good things,” Martinez said at the start of his pre-match press conference. “Our young players are performing much better. … We had a plan coming up this year so I think we’re in a good position and I think we’re going to improve quite quickly. I’m really excited about that. … I can see that for another year, and then we’ll see what happens after that.

Together, their flagship achievement leads the Nationals to a World Series title in 2019. But in the three ensuing seasons, the Nationals are just 120-182, a gap from competing for division titles for much of the decade. The slide included the trade of Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and six others last July. It also includes Washington’s current last spot, 20 games behind the New York Mets at 29-51.

So, as the July 15 deadline approached, two complicating factors were recent results and the potential change in ownership. Ultimately, however, the Lerner family chose to retain its most public-facing employees. At around 1:15 p.m. Saturday, Alan Gottlieb, the chief operating officer of Lerner Sports, emerged from a conference room at the Nationals clubhouse with Rizzo and Martinez, who were each carrying a piece of paper. Moments later, black handshakes and slaps could be heard from Martinez’s office.

Gottlieb declined to answer questions about the decision to exercise the options. During his press conference, Martinez acknowledged that the players were asked about his status, showing that the unknowns were on their minds.

“It brings some continuity not only to this organization but also to the players, which is good,” Martinez said. “And also to the coaching staff, the training staff. … It’s good to know that we are going to be together and that we are going to continue to work as we do.

With his coaches, did he want to provide peace of mind knowing their boss has another season?

“For me, it was important when we hired the coaches that they all got a two-year contract,” said Martinez, who signed hitting coach Darnell Coles, first baseman coach Eric Young Jr. , third base coach Gary DiSarcina and bullpen coach. Ricky Bones last fall. “So they’re all going to be here too.”

For Martinez, the immediate charge is managing a roster that will likely dwindle in early August, when a handful of key veterans are expected to be processed for more prospects. For Rizzo, next month holds the amateur draft, trade deadline and ongoing talks with Soto, who said Friday he was open to a long-term extension. And while that draft and that deadline are critical milestones in the rebuild — especially because the Nationals have the fifth overall pick, their highest since 2010 — Soto remains an important part of the process.

If he signs a long-term deal, Washington has a superstar he can build around. If he fails to sign him, Soto could test free agency after the 2024 season, which could be when the Nationals are ready to turn the corner. Of course, the numbers have to line up for team and player, which in this case is represented by agent Scott Boras. The club made multiple efforts in the 13 years and $350 million it offered last fall, according to several people familiar with the negotiations. These people added that no recent offers included a payment deferral, a notable change in the Lerner family’s typical negotiation style.

But what mattered most on Saturday was insurance for Martinez, Rizzo and those working around them – although many uncertainties remain.

“The restart is going extremely well,” said Rizzo, who always opted to “restart” instead of “rebuild”. “You can see a thriving young major league core developing before our eyes. Our minor league system has never been better when it comes to talent and on-field performance. So we are exactly where we want to be to fight for championships in the very near future.

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