Despite telling the Washington Post the family “will never sell the Nationals” in 2018, Washington Nationals owner Mark D. Lerner said the family is looking into potential investors and buyers for the club.
“This is an exploratory process, so there is no set timetable or expectation of a specific outcome,” Mark Lerner announced in a statement to The Post. “The organization is as committed as ever to their employees, players, fans, sponsors, and partners and to putting a competitive product on the field.”
Jennifer Giglio, a spokeswoman of the Nationals, told The Post, “As revenue streams around professional sports continue to evolve and the strength of the Washington Nationals brand continues to grow, the team believes it is prudent to assess all of the options out there.” Giglio also added that a full transfer of ownership is possible, but the Lerner’s could ultimately just bring in additional partners.
While club officials have not yet responded to requests for comment at the time of publishing, Washington Nationals manager Davey Martinez has offered his response (h/t: Associated Press):
“To say the least, I was shocked. Those are big decisions that the Lerner family had to make. I’ll support them in any way possible. This doesn’t mean my relationship with the Lerner family goes away. We’re still in this. I know they’re very committed to this organization, as am I.”
Relief pitcher Sean Doolittle, a member of the Nationals 2019 championship squad, said he doesn’t anticipate the development to be a distraction.
“I think the Nats last year and this year have been the exception, not the norm, for what this team does,” he told the Washington Post regarding the organization’s lowered payroll. “The organization has gone out and spent money to put a competitive product on the field. And I think if there were more teams that were willing to do that, the game would be in a much different place — probably a better place.”
Martinez remains focused on their club’s success as well.
“My job is to get this team ready to play today and focus on today, and that’s the way we’re going to do things; like I always do. … I know [the Lerner’s are] very committed to this organization, as am I, and we’re going to do everything we can to win every day.”
However, this news creates short- and long-term uncertainty for the Nationals. The franchise has a high-rising star in baseball in outfielder Juan Soto. It’s safe to say there’s concern over how the announcement will affect future negotiations for a contract extension.
Read where the Washington Nationals and others place in Baseball Spotlight’s latest MLB Power Rankings.
The Lerner’s Washington Nationals Ownership
Ted Lerner, who passed down day-to-day control of the club to his son Mark in 2018, originally bought the organization from Major League Baseball for $450 million. While the return on Lerner’s investment has been significant, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected the family’s income sources, according to Matt Weyrich of Yahoo Sports.
“While the club’s value has since increased more than four times over — Forbes assessed its value as $2 billion in March — the coronavirus pandemic disrupted revenue streams for both the baseball team and the commercial real estate business that the family fortune comes from,” Weyrich wrote.
Under the family, the Nationals have secured four division titles and five postseason appearances, along with a World Series title in 2019.
Washington was consistently among baseball’s largest payrolls between 2012 and 2019. The club signed off on Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Steven Strasburg twice over, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin, dishing out contracts of at least $100 million for each star.
However, the Nationals have cut back on their spending over the past few years. The club has not signed any player to a multi-year deal in two years as part of what General Manager Mike Rizzo has labeled a “reboot.”