Nationals ownership raised eyebrows within its baseball operations department this week when it quietly promoted a longtime accounting employee who once worked with the Lerner family’s real estate company and moved him into the baseball operations department.

As part of a broader shuffling through the business and communication side of the organization, the Nationals shifted former vice president of finance Ted Towne into the baseball operations department as an assistant general manager. Towne will oversee the department’s budget from inside baseball operations rather than externally, as he had before.

“His role will not change greatly from what he already does,” General Manager Mike Rizzo said. “He’s the vice president of finances, and he’s going to help us in financial matters, budgeting, that type of thing for baseball operations – like he has in the past, but he’s just going to oversee it.”

Rizzo cast Towne’s move as more of a reshuffling than a role change. He said Towne will not be consulted on payroll allocation or other baseball matters.

“Of course not,” Rizzo said. “Those are baseball decisions. A payroll decision is a baseball decision. He’s going to be in a budgeting capacity. He does a lot of it already, but now he’s going to be overseeing it internally.”

Towne joined the Nationals in early 2008, as the Nationals moved from RFK Stadium to Nationals Park. Before he came to the Nationals, he worked for Lerner Enterprises as a director of accounting, overseeing development and construction.

The Nationals’ official Web site lists Towne as an assistant general manager, beneath only Rizzo and assistant general managers Doug Harris, Bob Boone and Bryan Minniti among baseball operations staff members.

“It’s perceived as, he’s always been a member of our team,” Rizzo said. “We’ve worked closely with him in the past, for the last four years. He’s been an integral part of our budgeting, financial planning. Now he’s just going to have the responsibility to oversee it.”

While Rizzo said Towne’s promotion would have little impact on the Nationals’ current operation, many Nationals baseball personnel viewed the move as odd, especially because it came during the middle of the season. The position Towne will fill is believed to be unique throughout baseball.

Towne’s move drew differing reactions, with some in the front office wondering if ownership wanted to plant a liaison in baseball operations to limit spending within the department. One baseball operations employee said Towne is viewed as an unwelcome outsider.

The Nationals informed employees of Towne’s promotion through a staff-wide email. They did not publicly announce the move, atypical for the hiring of an assistant general manager.

Towne did not return a message left Friday afternoon at his office.

Dave Sheinin contributed to this report.