Since the Washington Nationals have not officially said a word about their coaching changes and front office hires, we have to rely on sourced reports for now. Last week, news broke that bench coach Tim Bogar, third base coach/infield coach Gary DiSarcina, first base coach/baserunning coach Eric Young Jr., and assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler were all out.
Fans were prepared for changes, after manager Dave Martinez was asked about the future of his coaching staff at the end of the season, and he responded that he will discuss that with general manager Mike Rizzo. That led many to believe that pitching coach Jim Hickey and hitting coach Darnell Coles were goners — yet, they appear to have survived the round of cuts. The news on front office departures were known back in September, and in October, Rizzo and his new scouting director, Danny Haas, have been busy building out a staff built on “quality” over “quantity” as it was described to us.
Before the hiring of Haas, the Nats had three key spots in Rizzo’s front office to fill after a reshuffling with former scouting director Kris Kline moved to a new Assistant GM role, the team mutually parted ways with their head of Latin America player development, Johnny DiPuglia, and they did not renew the contract of their VP of Player Development, De Jon Watson. Kline’s previous spot was filled by Haas, who comes over with years of experience in the Diamondbacks’ system, and we were told that there will be more emphasis on hiring experienced amateur scouting personnel under Haas.
News of Brad Ciolek from the Orioles’ system joining the Nats was broken by Keith Law of The Athletic over the weekend. He will be the Senior Director of amateur scouting per a report by Andrew Golden of the Washington Post, and we reported first that Ciolek was coming over in a senior role and for a significant pay increase. Yes, paying people well is one way to attract top people since Ciolek already held the title of Director of Draft Operations for the Orioles, and was basically in Kline’s spot in Baltimore’s system — but just at a much lower compensation.
We broke the news over the weekend that Reed Dunn was close to being hired by the Nationals, just pending the final vetting process. He was actually once a Nats scout from 2007-2014 and got the cross checker job with Atlanta Braves. He has been a key in his time with the Braves in getting Michael Harris II among others drafted by the Braves. Harris was a third round pick in 2019. When it is official, Dunn will be Haas’ Assistant Scouting Director in a system with two Assistant Scouting Directors to include Mark Baca who will remain with the Nats. With Haas, Ciolek, Baca and Dunn at the top of the Nats scouting, the hope is that the drafting process will be much better with stars found in multiple rounds. There are now four at the top of the draft room where there were only two before with Kline and Baca.
On the internationals side, DiPuglia’s spot was filled internally by Fausto Severino, and a source told us that with so many amateur international free agents committed like Victor Hurtado, that the Nats did not want to make any drastic changes because Rizzo did not want to risk losing any of their 2025 as well as 2026 commitments. Severino has been with the Nats in a senior position and is well thought of. Much more support for the international side will be provided to Severino by the Nats current front office and existing personnel in the Dominican Republic. Severino will look to add to his staff in the future.
For the senior level spots to fill, that just leaves the vacant VP of Player Development position previously held by Watson. We were told that Rizzo had at one time seven candidates and then added one or two to that, and has now narrowed that list down to three candidates. After Marlins Kim Ng resigned yesterday from the Marlins, we were told the Marlins does not have a specific VP of Player Development and that is handled by one of the Marlins three Assistant General Managers. The Marlins have a very analytical staff and have fewer front office employees and the same with the Orioles, we were told. Again, it is quality over quantity and teams are covering much more ground with analytics. Trying to get specific names on Rizzo’s radar turned up one interesting name in Sig Mejdal that our sources believe is a long-shot as he appears to be content with his spot in the Orioles’ system.
With Rizzo’s background in scouting, all it really took for him was embracing the analytics side to transform him in the past few years to get with the times. With these new hires, he has certainly brought in people like Haas, Ciolek and Dunn who all have analytics and strong educational backgrounds.
There should be some other scouting personnel hired too. The Nats front office website clearly has not been updated in a long time if you look here. Most of the departed people from the scouting department were all listed with the title of Special Assistant to the General Manager. Where the staff is getting beefed up is at the top end. What we don’t know is what Kline’s new role is as Assistant GM in this new-look front office. At times it feels like there are emeritus roles on this team, and too many cooks in the kitchen. That was sort of how DiPuglia’s role was described before he departed. For instance, Jack McKeon is still listed as a Senior Advisor to the General Manager, and McKeon turns 93 in November, and we were told that he has not been seen for a long time.
Keep in mind that the Winter Meetings have job fairs and networking events, and teams hire some of these people after that event for entry level positions. Years ago we ran into Joel Hanrahan, Jamey Carroll, and Chad Cordero at the Winter Meetings in DC. Both Hanrahan and Carroll landed jobs with the Pirates, and today, Hanrahan is a top pitching coach with the Nats’ minor league system. We were told some of the scouting personnel that were just let go were hired from the Winter Meetings job fair. What that means is Rizzo might continue hiring people for months down the road.
The Nats will obviously be replacing all of the departed coaches, and the question will be as to where they turn as Martinez has made it clear that he wants to return to playoff contention. His team just finished a 71-91 season, their best since he managed his way to a World Series championship less than four years ago. Finding great coaches, would be a step in the right direction.
While this is a time that teams usually don’t make big announcements during the postseason, the Ng news yesterday was huge news. Most teams have already made most of their subtractions, and a team like the Nats usually waits for an off-day during the postseason or after the World Series to announce their hirings which is why we have to wait for sourced reports. We are only about three weeks from free agent filings and seeing moves in the Hot Stove portion of the offseason. We are less than 120 days until Spring Training camps open.
What some sources shared with me is that there has been a reshifting of focus in the Nats scouting department that goes with a team in transition towards winning rather than a full rebuild. Now they do not need as many scouts doing pro scouting whereby they would look at other MLB and Minor League players for potential trades as the Nats are most likely going to do fewer trades in the future. The shift is towards better evaluators at the top of the scouting department for the draft and international free agency. We were told this is not even an equal shift of dollars because hiring more senior level personnel costs more. We were also told that the full emphasis is on building a better team and stronger farm system that can sustain a longer winning cycle.