Ted Leonsis is Planning Another Bid to Buy the Washington Nationals

The Owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals, Mystics, and Monumental Sports Network has been the favorite to buy the Nationals in the past, and now it seems like Leonsis may be the only one in the running.
Capitals Honored at Nationals Park
Capitals Honored at Nationals Park / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

Formerly the Montreal Expos and owned by the MLB from 2002-2006, the Expos moved to DC in 2005, becoming the Washington Nationals, with Ted Lerner and the Lerner family purchasing a majority stake in the franchise officially in July of 2006. 

Since 2005, the franchise has experienced numerous ups and downs, finishing dead last in the NL East 5 out of 6 years from 2005-2010, before their successful run beginning in 2012. Signs of improvement began in 2010, with Ryan Zimmerman solidifying himself as the face of the franchise, along with promising young talent like first overall picks Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg looking to become budding stars. In 2012, baseball magic in Washington DC finally began to take shape. 

From 2012-2019, the Nationals made the playoffs five out of eight years, winning four NL East titles, along with a remarkable run as a wild card team in 2019 encapsulated by the World Series victory. The Lerner family showed their willingness to spend, being praised by fans for giving Mike Rizzo and the Nationals organization the resources necessary to be one of the best teams in baseball over the eight years. 

The spending spree started in December of 2010 with the franchise-altering move signing Jayson Werth to a 7-year 126 million dollar deal, then Gio Gonzalez to a 5-year deal in 2012, Max Scherzer to a 7-year deal in 2015, Daniel Murphy to a 3-year deal in 2016, Patrick Corbin to a 6-year deal before the 2019 season, and Stephen Strasburg to a 7-year extension in 2016 before the infamous 7-year 245 million dollar deal after the 2019 World Series when he opted out. 

Oct 5, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28), GM Mike Rizzo, and Principle Owner Mark Lerner
Oct 5, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Jayson Werth (28), GM Mike Rizzo, and Principle Owner Mark Lerner / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Since the 2019 season though, the largest contract we have given out for a player is the 8-year 50 million dollar Keibert Ruiz extension, and the largest contract for a free agent has been Trevor Williams, with a 2-year 13 million dollar deal. This is not a recipe for success, and after the passing of Ted Lerner, the Lerner family dangled the Nationals on the open market before pulling them back out. It was reported that the Lerner Family had turned down an offer of $2 Billion from a group led by Ted Leonsis. After striking out the first time, it looks like Ted Leonsis wants to get back in on the action. 

Here is Ted Leonsis on The Sports Junkies Radio Show on the morning of May 14th:

Now it is important to soak this in and weigh the pros and cons for a claim like this. 

1) I was shocked to hear that the original offer was close to what the Lerner’s were looking for, and it was turned down.

 2) This is an ongoing process, as the Nationals are currently not officially for sale, and the MASN dispute could be heading towards a resolution with the new Orioles ownership group. 

3) Leonsis has the capital to make a completive offer, and with the Wizards and Capitals seasons coming to a close, and neither poised to be a big offseason spender, this may be his best chance to capitalize on a seemingly weaker market. 

As a DC Sports fan myself, Leonsis has been a great owner for the Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics in the past, showing his capability of being a big spender, netting them big free agents, along with signing John Wall and Bradley Beal to maximum contracts, nearing a combined 420 million dollars. Alexander Ovechkin is the most notable figure on the Capitals, and along with Nicklas Backstrom, Lerner has shown the importance of keeping superstar players like them in the organization. My biggest problem now is Leonsis' priorities.

Alex Ovechkin, Ted Leonsis
New York Islanders v Washington Capitals / Rob Carr/GettyImages

From a fan perspective, the Wizards and Mystics franchise has taken a back seat to the Capitals over the last few years, with Alexander Ovechkin chasing the goal record. The Wizards have slipped from being a prominent contender to one of the worst teams in the league, with Leonsis hiring internal management that had no proven track record of success, along with an awful head coaching hire of Wes Unseld Jr. It has shifted over the past year trying to revitalize the franchise, but with the Wizards showing there might be light at the end of the tunnel, and outside of Alexander Ovechkin 41 goals away from the record and a crazy run to the playoffs, now the Capitals future post-Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Oshie, seems to be murky. Not only are the Wizards and Capitals struggling, but the Mystics have also slipped from a prominent playoff team with a championship in 2019, to a team that is projected to be the worst in the league this season.

To conclude, it is obvious that the Nationals need new ownership willing to spend ahead of the pivotal 2025 and 2026 seasons. The Lerner's have shown the capability in the past, but have not since 2019, and Washington could be missing a window without dishing out capital to fill some glaring holes. Ted Leonsis is the heavy favorite to buy the franchise, and the one positive may be putting them on the Monumental Sports Network and getting out of the MASN debacle, but Leonsis already has too much on his plate, neglecting two out of the three franchises he owns in the Washington Wizards and Mystics. 

In my opinion, it is a matter of when, not if, Ted Leonsis buys the Washington Nationals. My only hope is that he gets us out of the MASN deal and that he spends like the Lerner’s once did. I am not confident in either.