Nationals announce front office changes; Doug Harris and Kris Kline promoted to assistant GMs

Nationals director of scouting Kris Kline, foreground, and GM Mike Rizzo are pictured at the 2010 draft. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Nationals director of scouting Kris Kline, foreground, and GM Mike Rizzo are pictured at the 2010 draft. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

In the wake of Roy Clark’s departure for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Nationals announced Thursday a wave of front office promotions. Doug Harris, the Nationals’ farm director for the past four seasons, was promoted to assistant general manager and vice president of player development. Kris Kline, previously the Nationals’ director of scouting, becomes an assistant general manager and vice president of scouting operations.

Mark Scialabba, the director of minor league operations for the past four years, takes over as director of player development. Along with the front office promotions, the were a handful of promotions from the Nationals’ scouting department: Mark Baca becomes a national supervisor, Jeff Zona moves up to become a special assistant to General Manager Mike Rizzo and Fred Costello becomes a national crosschecker.

All six men have worked with Rizzo for several years and Rizzo has now loyally rewarded those who have played roles in helping change the direction of the organization from a perennial loser that had one of the worst farm systems in baseball to a major league team that has won 184 games over the past two seasons and has a much improved minor league system. And by promoting from within the organization, Rizzo continues to show a willingness to maintain continuity.

“When you have a core of people as good at what they do as these guys, it’s like a major league team and players that have been together for a long time, you know what each other is thinking,” Kline said. “The longer you’re together the more continuity you have and the better.”

“That’s always inspiring to your staff,” Harris added. “We’ve seen it on the player development side. It continues to drive people and continues that unity. It shows that we’re all pulling the rope in the same direction.”

Clark, formerly an assistant general manager and an important front office figure who helped overhaul the organization’s drafting and farm system, left the Nationals for the Dodgers earlier this month to be reunited with former Nationals president Stan Kasten in Los Angeles.

Both Harris and Kline will still be heavily involved with player development and scouting, respectively, but will take on larger roles within the organization and the major league team. After stints with the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers, Harris joined the Nationals in 2009 and has been the farm director for the past four seasons. He will still work closely with Scialabba on the Nationals minor leagues but will have a larger presence in the front office and major league side.

“I’m very humbled and very flattered with the opportunity and very privileged to work with great people,” Harris said. “… The bulk of the work isn’t going to change. There’s going to be a little different tact on some things. There are going to be some other details involved that we’re still working through.”

Kline, a longtime scout, joined the Nationals in 2006 and spent his first three seasons in the organization as a special assignment scout and then a crosschecker in the western part of the country. He took over as head of the Nationals’ amateur scouting efforts five years ago. Thanks to the drafting of players such as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, A.J. Cole, Sammy Solis, Matt Purke and Brian Goodwin, the Nationals were briefly recognized as the best farm system in all of baseball in 2012 just five years after being ranked dead last. Kline and Harris join Bryan Minniti as the Nationals’ assistant general managers under Rizzo. Both men are also vice presidents, joining Bob Boone, who is vice president of player personnel.

“I really appreciate Riz and the organization for giving me that opportunity,” Kline said. “I’m going to be doing the same job with the  amateur draft and maybe a few more things. Wherever Rizzo needs me to go and do, I’m all in.”

Scialabba joined the Nationals in 2006 and became involved with player development soon after. He became Harris’ right-hand man in 2009 as the director of minor league operations and the two have worked well together since.

“I’m very privileged and honored to run the farm system with Doug Harris and Bob Boone and the people here,” Scialabba said. “I’m very thankful to Mike and the ownership. We have a great group and staff and want to keep the machine running in the right direction. To have that continuity going within the system is exciting to be a part of.”

Baca, a longtime scout, joined the Nationals in 2008 as a scout focused on Southern California. Zona enters his seventh season with the Nationals; he served as a scout in 2008 and 2009 and then moved to national crosschecker after the 2009 season. After stints with the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks as an area scout, Costello was hired by the Nationals in 2010 as an area scout covering the Northwest region of the country.

“We’re all in the same organization and it’s a big part of who we are and a tribute to Mike and ownership to keeping us all together,” Scialabba  said.

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