The Washington Nationals have agreed to a deal with former Chicago Cubs bench coach Davey Martinez to become their next manager, and are finalizing the details of what will be a three-year deal with an option for a fourth, according to a person familiar with the situation. Martinez has served as Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Chicago and Tampa Bay for a decade, but has never managed before.
Martinez was considered the front-runner to replace Dusty Baker since they parted ways with the veteran manager last week. The Nationals received permission to discuss the job with him on Monday and he interviewed in Washington on Thursday, a lengthy process that included dinner with ownership. The Nationals also interviewed former Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell on Friday, though briefly, and while Washington was also granted permission to speak with New York Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, it remains unclear whether they did so or not. The Nationals also reached out to Houston Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who was already closing in on a deal to become the next manager of the Boston Red Sox at the time.
The 53-year-old Martinez doesn’t have any managerial experience, and therefore represents a stark departure from Baker, who was the winningest active manager when his Nationals’ tenure ended. Martinez will be the Nationals’ second rookie manager in five seasons, as Matt Williams won the National League Manager of the Year Award and took the Nationals to the playoffs in 2014. Things fell apart shortly thereafter. The last rookie manager to lead a team to a World Series title was Bob Brenly with the Diamondbacks in 2001. Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo was the scouting director for Arizona at the time.
Martinez experienced a decade-long education under Maddon, who is considered a forward-thinking type with a willingness to buck baseball tradition when needed. Exactly how much of Maddon has rubbed off on Martinez remains to be seen, but the Nationals’ new manager does have a history of playoff success. The Rays won the American League pennant in 2008, and he was a part of the Cubs’ curse-smashing World Series victory a year ago. The Cubs advanced to the NLCS in Martinez’s other two seasons with Maddon in Chicago.
Martinez gives the Nationals a different look — a fresher face than Baker or Davey Johnson, but a more relaxed leader than Williams. He is fluent in Spanish, well-versed in advanced analytics and multiple Nationals players have spoken highly of him. Martinez is the third Latino manager in baseball, joining Rick Renteria and Alex Cora, who was hired by the Boston Red Sox last week. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dave Roberts is the only African American manager remaining.
Martinez has been interviewed by multiple organizations for their managerial positions since 2010, including when he was considered a finalist to replace Davey Johnson with the Nationals in 2013. Washington hired Williams instead. Two years later, Williams was fired following a debacle in 2015. The Nationals selected Bud Black to replace him but negotiations crumbled and Baker was given the job. Baker was let go after posting 95-win and 97-win seasons, both of which concluded with Game 5 losses in the National League Division Series. He was told he wasn’t returning a week into the offseason.
But the Nationals did not struggle to negotiate with their manager this time, committing three years (and perhaps a fourth) to Martinez in a marked departure from their normal handling of managers. The Lerner Family earned a reputation for putting little value on managers, a reputation born out in their unwillingness to provide extensions to veterans like Baker (or, famously, Jim Riggleman), and in their initial offers to candidates over the years. But while the money behind Martinez’s deal is not immediately clear, the length of the deal signals recognition of the state of the managerial market (Cora and Ron Gardenhire got three years each to manage the Red Sox and Tigers, respectively).
Official word of a deal likely won’t come until Monday morning, as Major League Baseball prefers its teams to hold off on major announcements until after the World Series. This one likely won’t wait that long, though a news conference might. The Astros and Dodgers — both of whom have young managers similar to Martinez — play Game 5 of the World Series Sunday before an off-day Monday.
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