Washington Nationals Considering Extension for Dusty Baker

The Washington Nationals are reportedly open to offering a contract extension to manager Dusty Baker. Good idea?

Whether you consider Dusty Baker‘s first year at the helm of the Washington Nationals a success or a disappointment is largely a matter of perspective, but the franchise itself appears interested in keeping the veteran manager around beyond the upcoming season.

Baker’s current contract runs through the 2017 campaign, the second of a two-year deal he signed in November of 2015. According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, the Nats are willing to give the skipper an extension before Opening Day. He points out, however, that the two sides have not yet held discussions.

Washington could not have asked for much more from its 2016 regular season performance. The team won 95 games, coasting to an NL East division crown while enduring a few key injuries and an underwhelming year from 2015 MVP Bryce Harper. Unfortunately, the postseason told a familiar story. For the third time in five seasons, the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS, losing to the Dodgers in five games.

This is a squad that clearly has the talent to compete for a World Series title, but things just haven’t come together when needed most. It didn’t happen last year, but is Dusty Baker the guy to finally get the Nats over the hump in the near future? That likely depends on who you talk to. As Castillo notes, Baker’s signature laid-back style has been credited with relaxing a clubhouse that fractured under previous manager Matt Williams.

However, some have also wondered if that same carefree attitude could be a detriment to the club in crunch time. Namely, in October. Baker is somewhat polarizing among baseball fans. It’s hard not to like the guy, and he’s a true baseball lifer, having spent 19 seasons as a player and 21 as a manager.

Nevertheless, he’s drawn criticism in the past for how he uses his pitchers, and though he’s been quite successful overall as a skipper, he’s captured just one pennant in his extensive managerial career. His teams have also lost nine straight series-clinching games in the postseason.

Wherever you fall on the Dusty Baker opinion spectrum, giving him a one-year extension is probably not a bad idea. It would at least remove the “lame duck” tag from him before the new season begins, and it would also put his contract status in sync with that of general manager Mike Rizzo, whose current deal runs through the 2018 campaign.

2018 is likely going to be a crossroads year for Washington anyway. As everyone knows by now, Bryce Harper will be a free agent at the end of that season. So will Daniel Murphy, who was a revelation for the Nats in 2016. If the franchise still hasn’t reached its goals by then, changes are almost sure to take place, and they would easily be able to move on from Baker, Rizzo, or both.

The Nationals were never going to change horses after a 95-win season, but a long-term extension likely isn’t in the cards either for the 67-year-old Baker. Adding an extra year would probably be agreeable to both sides, and most importantly gel with the team’s overall plan.

Thoughts on a possible Dusty Baker extension? Sound off below.

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