WASHINGTON — More than a decade ago, when Matt Williams was still a third baseman and Mike Rizzo was still climbing the front-office rungs, the future general manager thought he noticed the makings of a future manager.
Well, here they are. Williams will make his debut as a major league manager with the Washington Nationals, a hiring announced Thursday by Rizzo, one day after the World Series ended.
“Matt played with intensity as a player but he also was a terrific teammate. You talk to the guys that he played with and they swear by him. He was always team first and self second. He was the consummate team player and a great teammate. He was a leader in the clubhouse, by example and also a vocal leader,” Rizzo said.
“As a manager candidate, I feel he has the same fire, same desire and the same team-first attitude that will be taken well by the players. He’s always been a players’ guy as a player and I think he’ll continue to be a players’ guy as a manager.”
Rizzo was a part of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ front office when the expansion team entered the majors in 1998, and he became their scouting director two years later along the way to becoming Washington’s GM. Williams played in Arizona from 1998-2003, part of a 17-year career that also included time with the San Francisco Giants and Cleveland Indians.
DODGERS: Los Angeles declined to exercise its 2014 options on second baseman Mark Ellis and pitcher Chris Capuano, making them free agents.
Ellis, 36, had a $5.75 million option and will be paid a $1 million buyout. He batted .264 with 13 home runs and 79 RBI in two seasons with the team. He’s expected to be replaced by a Cuban infielder, Alexander Guerrero, who signed a $28 million, four-year deal.
CARDINALS: St. Louis declined its $9.5 million option for next season on pitcher Jake Westbrook, who was not on the postseason roster after contending with elbow and back injuries much of the year.
Westbrook, 36, who was 7-8 with a 4.63 ERA, gets a $1 million buyout.
ROCKIES: Colorado declined its half of a mutual option on reliever Rafael Betancourt, who is coming off an arm injury, making him a free agent.
Betancourt was 2-5 with a 4.08 ERA and 16 saves for the Rockies last season before tearing a ligament in his pitching elbow. He considered undergoing platelet-rich plasma therapy to fix his arm, but announced in August his decision to have Tommy John surgery.
TIGERS: San Diego bench coach Rick Renteria interviewed for the Detroit manager’s job.
The Tigers need a new manager after Jim Leyland stepped down following the team’s loss to Boston in the AL Championship Series.
ROYALS: Kansas City exercised its $13.5 million option on right-hander James Shields for 2014 after he anchored one of the league’s best starting rotations last season.
Shields, acquired last offseason in a trade from Tampa Bay, went 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA and an AL-leading 2282/3 innings. He was especially good after the All-Star break, going 9-3 with a 3.06 ERA to help the Royals get into playoff contention.
INDIANS: Cleveland released closer Chris Perez and re-signed veteran slugger Jason Giambi.
A two-time All-Star, Perez wore out his welcome in Cleveland. He lost his job in the final week of the season as the Indians were trying to clinch a wild-card berth. It capped another tumultuous year for Perez, who was arrested in June after drug agents followed a package containing marijuana to his home. He and his wife pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
BLUE JAYS: Kevin Seitzer, a former All-Star third baseman, was hired as hitting coach.
RANGERS: Texas declined its $12 million contract option for Lance Berkman, making the 37-year-old switch hitter a free agent.
PADRES-INDIANS: San Diego traded left-hander Colt Hynes to Cleveland for cash considerations.
WHITE SOX: Chicago exercised a club option for next season on reliever Matt Lindstrom and hired Todd Steverson as hitting coach.