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Nationals sign RHP Max Scherzer to seven-year contract

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by Amanda Comak

Solidifying their starting rotation as arguably the best assembled in Major League Baseball, the Washington Nationals agreed to terms with 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer on a seven-year contract on Wednesday. Scherzer will be announced in a 2 pm press conference.

Scherzer_baseballcard_wasScherzer, 30, joins the Nationals after seven Major League seasons with the Detroit Tigers (2010-14) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2008-09) and on the heels of back-to-back All-Star campaigns.

“We are delighted  to welcome Max Scherzer to our organization,” said Theodore N. Lerner, Managing Principal Owner of the Washington Nationals. “An incredibly talented and widely-feared pitcher, Max brings even more depth to an already outstanding rotation. We are confident he will make significant contributions to our pursuit of winning a World Series championship.”

The right-hander is 91-50 with a 3.58 ERA in 207 career games (198 starts) during his seven year career. Since 2012, he has posted at least 10.0 strikeouts/9.0 innings pitched and has eclipsed the 200.0 inning barrier for two straight seasons (2013-14). Since 2009, his first full Major League campaign, Scherzer has made at least 30 starts each season while posting double-digit wins in five straight years (2010-14).

“We could not be happier to add a player of Max’s caliber to our stable of starting pitchers,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “It’s not every day that a team adds a Cy Young Award winner to its roster. He is a playoff-tested ace, and we’re excited to call him a part of our family.”

While helping to lead the Tigers to four consecutive AL Central titles, Scherzer earned the 2013 AL Cy Young award after leading the American League in wins (21), while ranking second in strikeouts (240), strikeouts per nine innings (10.8), quality starts (25), batting average against (.198), and fifth in ERA (2.90) and innings pitched (214.1). Scherzer followed that up by going 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 2014, while posting a career-high 220.1 IP, striking out 252 batters (10.3 batters per nine innings), and finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting.

During his five seasons in the American League, Scherzer has averaged 203 innings pitched per season, to go along with 216 strikeouts (1,081 total) and a 3.52 ERA.

The right-hander joins a rotation that includes three pitchers who finished in the top-10 in 2014 National League Cy Young voting: Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and Stephen Strasburg, along with 15-game winner Tanner Roark, who posted the 12th-best ERA in the NL (2.85), and two-time All-Star Gio Gonzalez.

Before the acquisition of Scherzer, ESPN.com had already ranked the Nationals rotation as the best in the Major Leagues entering 2015.

Originally drafted by Rizzo, who was then the Diamondbacks’ Vice President of Scouting Operations, Scherzer was selected by Arizona  in the first round (No. 11 overall) of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of  Missouri.

Scherzer made his Major League debut on April 29, 2008, and since that time he has compiled the eighth-most strikeouts (1321) of any starting pitcher in the Major Leagues – putting him on a short list of strikeout masters with the likes of Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw.

Nationals acquire INF Yunel Escobar from A’s

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by Amanda Comak

Chicago White Sox v Tampa Bay RaysAdding depth to their middle infield, the Washington Nationals acquired infielder Yunel Escobar from the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, in exchange for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard.

Escobar, an eight-year Major League veteran, joins the Nationals after stops in Atlanta (2007-10), Toronto (2010-12) and Tampa (2012-14). He was traded to the A’s just four days ago (Jan. 10), along with INF/OF Ben Zobrist, in exchange for C John Jaso, INF Daniel Robertson, OF Boog Powell and cash considerations.

The slick-fielding infielder is a career .276 hitter with a .347 on-base percentage and a .381 slugging percentage. A shortstop for the majority of his Major League career, Escobar has started 950 games at shortstop since 2008 – the most in the Major Leagues over that span. Escobar started 20 games for the Braves at second base in 2007 – a season after which he finished sixth in the Rookie of the Year voting – and has experience at third base as well.

Escobar, 32, hit .258 with seven home runs and 39 RBI in 137 games for Tampa Bay in 2014. In his previous two seasons, both with the Rays, Escobar has averaged 145 games played and hit .257 with a .328 on-base percentage, 45 doubles, 16 home runs and 95 RBI.

Against National League opponents (472 games), Escobar is a career .291 hitter with a .366 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage.

After defecting from Cuba in 2004, Escobar was drafted by the Braves in the second round (No. 75 overall) of the 2005 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Division Series - San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals - Game TwoClippard, 29, went 34-24 with 34 saves and a 2.68 ERA in 414 games spanning seven seasons with Washington.

Acquired in Dec., 2007, from the New York Yankees in exchange for RHP Jonathan Albaladejo, Clippard is the only reliever to appear in more than 70 games each of the last five seasons (2010-14). He went 7-4 with one save and a 2.18 ERA in 2014 and, for the second time in his career (also 2011), led Major League Baseball in holds with 40. His 2014 season was just the third 40-hold campaign in MLB history (TBR’s Joel Peralta 41 in 2013, SDP’s Luke Gregerson 40 in 2010).

Nationals acquire catcher Dan Butler from Red Sox

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by Amanda Comak

Boston Red Sox Vs. Baltimore Orioles At Fenway ParkAdding depth to their catching corps, the Washington Nationals acquired catcher Dan Butler from the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, sending left-hander Danny Rosenbaum to Boston to complete the swap.

Butler, 28, joins the Nationals after six seasons in the Red Sox organization. The right-handed hitting catcher appeared in seven Major League games for Boston in 2014, starting five behind the plate and going 4-for-19 (.211). Three of his four hits went for doubles.

Over the course of six Minor League seasons, the reliable backstop is a career .256 hitter with a .349 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage. In 2013, Butler caught 72 games for Triple-A Pawtucket of the International League and posted a .262 average with 14 home runs, 19 doubles and 45 RBI.

Butler, who is considered a strong defensive catcher, was a two-time Mid-Season Minor League All-Star (2010, South Atlantic League; 2011, Carolina League) and a four-time Minor League Player of the Week.

Rosenbaum was selected by Washington in the 22nd round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH.

In six seasons in Washington’s Minor League chain, Rosenbaum went 34-36 with a 3.12 ERA in 121 games (116 starts). He is currently rehabbing from May, 2014, Tommy John ligament reconstruction surgery.

Butler will be added to the Nationals’ 40-man roster, which is currently at 39.

Nationals announce 2015 Minor League staff

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by Amanda Comak

Washington Nationals v Cincinnati RedsThe Washington Nationals named their Minor League managers, coaches and coordinators for the 2015 season on Wednesday, including the addition of former Nationals player Rick Ankiel, who will fill a newly-created Life Skills Coordinator role.

The Nationals promoted Paul Menhart to Minor League Pitching Coordinator and named Spin Williams as Senior Advisor for Player Development. Menhart embarks on his 10th season in the Nationals’ Minor League system.

Menhart, who spent the 2014 season as the pitching coach for Triple-A Syracuse, has overseen the development of many of Washington’s top pitching prospects. Additionally, Michael Barrett will take an increased role as Catching Coordinator, working with the catchers across all levels of Washington’s system. He will continue to serve as the Manager of the Gulf Coast League Nationals.

Washington is happy to welcome Bob Milacki and Tommy Shields to the organization. Milacki will serve as the pitching coach for Triple-A Syracuse while Shields joins the organization as a Co-field Coordinator.

Milacki comes to the Nationals after spending six seasons (2009-14) in the Philadelphia chain. Prior to joining the Phillies, he spent eight years as a pitching coach in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization (2001-08). Milacki Appeared in 143 games, going 39-47 with a 4.38 ERA over parts of eight seasons in the Major Leagues, with Baltimore (1988-92), Cleveland (1993), Kansas City (1994) and Seattle (1996). He was selected in the second round of the 1983 MLB Draft by Baltimore.

Shields, a native of Fairfax, VA, comes to the Nationals after spending three seasons as the manager of the Burlington Royals in the Kansas City Royals’ chain, earning Appalachian League Manager of the Year honors in 2012. Shields joined the Royals after spending six years as the Atlanta Braves’ minor league infield coordinator (2006-11), and from 2007-10 he served dual roles as the field and infield coordinator. He played parts of eight Minor League seasons in the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago Cubs’ organizations. A left-handed-hitting infielder, Shields made his Major League debut in 1992 with the Baltimore Orioles but earned his first MLB plate appearance with the Cubs in 1993.

Washington also welcomes back to the organization Ankiel, who will serve as the Life Skills Coordinator. Ankiel retired in 2013 after playing parts of 11 Major League seasons with six different clubs, including the Nationals (2011-12). He will draw on his vast experience as a player to help mentor Nationals farmhands.

The Nationals have also added Jerad Head, who will serve as a coach during Extended Spring Training and for the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League Nationals. Head played eight seasons in the Minor Leagues, including the 2013 season within the Nationals’ chain. Head appeared in 10 games for the Cleveland Indians in 2011 and collected his first MLB hit in his big league debut, August 28 vs. Kansas City.

Here are the full Nationals’ Minor League coaching staffs:

Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs
[International League]
Manager – Billy Gardner Jr.
Pitching – Bob Milacki*
Hitting – Joe Dillon
Athletic Trainer – Jeff Allred
Strength & Conditioning Coach – Brett Henry
Double-A Harrisburg Senators
[Eastern League]
Manager – Brian Daubach
Pitching – Chris Michalak
Hitting – Mark Harris
Athletic Trainer – Eric Montague
Strength & Conditioning Coach – Tony Rogowski
Single-A Potomac Nationals
[Carolina League]
Manager – Tripp Keister
Pitching – Franklin Bravo
Hitting – Brian Rupp
Athletic Trainer – TD Swinford
Strength & Conditioning Coach – Mike Warren
Single-A Hagerstown Suns
[South Atlantic League]
Manager – Patrick Anderson
Pitching – Sam Narron
Hitting – Luis Ordaz
Athletic Trainer – Don Neidig
Strength & Conditioning Coach – Gabe Torres
Short-Season Single-A Auburn Doubledays
[New York-Penn League]
Manager – Gary Cathcart
Pitching – Tim Redding
Hitting – Amaury Garcia
Athletic Trainer – Darren Yoos
Strength & Conditioning Coach – RJ Guyer
Rookie-Level GCL Nationals
[Gulf Coast League]
Manager – Michael Barrett
Pitching – Michael Tejera
Hitting – Jorge MejiaCoach — Jerad Head
Athletic Trainer – Kirby Craft
Strength & Conditioning Coach – Edwin Jimenez
Rookie-Level DSL Nationals
[Dominican Summer League]
Manager – Sandy Martinez
Pitching – Pablo Frias
Hitting – Jose Herrera
Coach – Emiliano Alcantara
Athletic Trainer – Miguel Cabrera
Strength & Conditioning Coach – Santo Del Rosario
Coordinators
Co-Field Coordinator – Jeff Garber Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator – Gary Thurman
Co-Field Coordinator – Tommy Shields* Coordinator of Instruction – Gary Cathcart
Pitching Coordinator – Paul Menhart Rehabilitation Pitching Coordinator – Mark Grater
Sr. Advisor, Player Development – Spin Williams Medical and Rehabilitation Coordinator – Jon Kotredes
Hitting Coordinator – Troy Gingrich Strength and Conditioning Coordinator – Landon Brandes
Catching Coordinator – Michael Barrett Life Skills Coordinator – Rick Ankiel
Minor League Equipment Manager – Calvin Minasian

Nationals acquire RHP Joe Ross and a Player To Be Named from the Padres

The Washington Nationals acquired a former first-round draft selection in right-handed pitcher Joe Ross, and a player to be named, from the San Diego Padres on Friday in exchange for outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and left-hander Travis Ott. The deal was part of a three-team trade that included the Tampa Bay Rays, who will ultimately receive Souza Jr. and Ott.

Seattle Mariners v San Diego PadresRoss, 21, was 10-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) between Single-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio in 2014.

The 6-foot-4 righty struck out a career-best 106 batters and walked just 29 in 2014 — a 3.66 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the best of his career. In four games (three starts) for Double-A San Antonio, Ross fanned 19 batters while walking just one. He went 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA (8 ER/20.0 IP) after his late-July promotion. He features a mid-90s fastball that induces groundballs to go along with an above average slider.

In the hitter-friendly Single-A California League, Ross went 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA in 14 starts en route to being named a California League All-Star. In addition, he garnered California League Pitcher of the Week honors on May 5 after striking out nine batters in six innings of shutout ball, April 29 vs. Visalia (ARI).

Ross, who has improved his strikeouts per nine innings and walks per nine innings at each level of the Minor Leagues over the last two years, was considered by multiple industry experts to be one of the Padres’ Top 10 prospects. He was rated by Keith Law of ESPN.com as the No. 41 overall prospect in baseball during the 2014 season.

Ross was originally selected by San Diego in the first round (No. 25 overall) of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He attended Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, Calif. and is the younger brother of Padres pitcher Tyson Ross.

Souza Jr., 25, was selected by the Nationals in the third round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft out of Cascade High School in Everett, Wash. He spent seven seasons in Washington’s Minor League system before making his Major League debut on April 13 at Atlanta. Following the 2014 season, Souza Jr. was named Washington’s Minor League Player of the Year and earned International League Most Valuable Player honors for an outstanding season at Triple-A.

The athletic outfielder’s signature moment as a National came on the final day of the 2014 regular season when he sealed Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter, the first in Nationals history, with an outstanding leaping catch in left field.

Ott was selected in the 25th round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Shippensburg Area (PA) High School. He was 4-4 with a 3.96 ERA in 23 minor league games (20 starts).

Nationals acquire 2B Chris Bostick and RHP Abel de Los Santos in exchange for LHP Ross Detwiler

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by Amanda Comak

Milwaukee Brewers v Washington NationalsThe Washington Nationals concluded the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings by completing a trade that brought two new prospects into the organization. The Nationals acquired second baseman Chris Bostick and right-handed reliever Abel de Los Santos from the Texas Rangers on Thursday in exchange for left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler.

Bostick, 21, has a .270 career batting average and a .341 on-base percentage in four Minor League seasons ranging from Rookie Level to high Class-A. In 2014, with Single-A Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League, Bostick hit .251 with a .322 on-base percentage and a .412 slugging percentage. While he played 122 of his 130 games at second base in 2014, Bostick has played 18 Minor League games at shortstop in his career.

Bostick ranked among Carolina League hitters in runs scored (second, 81), hits (T-sixth, 124), doubles, (T-fifth, 31),  triples (T-fifth, 8), stolen bases (ninth, 24), and RBI (T-ninth, 62).

A 44th-round selection in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of high school, Bostick was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics. He was acquired by the Rangers, along with Michael Choice, on Dec. 3, 2013, in exchange for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom.

de Los Santos, 22, was a teammate of Bostick’s in Myrtle Beach for much of the 2014 season. Though he made eight appearances to begin the year in Single-A Hickory of the South Atlantic League, de Los Santos made 33 appearances for Single-A Myrtle Beach, where he was 5-2 with a 1.97 ERA.

On the season, the 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched to a 1.92 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched (41 games).

Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Rangers in 2010, de Los Santos worked to a 0.959 WHIP in 2014 (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) and struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings in 2014. He allowed just two home runs all season and his eight saves were good for second on the Myrtle Beach club.

Against left-handed hitters in 2014, de Los Santos surrendered just 14 hits while striking out 35 of the 85 lefty batters he faced.

Detwiler, 28, joins the Rangers after eight years in the Nationals’ organization.

The No. 6 overall selection in the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft, Detwiler was 20-32 with a 3.82 ERA over the course of six Major League seasons. In his lone playoff appearance with the Nationals, Detwiler spun six innings of one-run ball over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012.

A starter for the first five years of his Major League career, Detwiler was shifted to a bullpen role in 2014. The 6-foot-5 left-hander had a 4.00 ERA in 2014, going 2-3 in 63.0 innings of work.

Winter Meetings 2014: Catching up with Matt Williams, Tommy Shields joins Minor League staff & more

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals play the Atlanta BravesAs the 2014 MLB Winter Meetings head into their second day, Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams will meet with the media this afternoon in San Diego. The National League Manager of the Year enters his second season at the helm looking to help the team improve on what was a very successful 2014 season.

Before Williams meets with the media, he spent a few minutes catching up on the year that was and more:

From where you were last year at this time, how do you reflect on how everything has gone?

I think it was a successful season for us. I think it was satisfying, yet unsatisfying at the same time because we weren’t the last ones standing — and that’s why we’re all here. So, a very positive step in the right direction and hopefully many more steps to come. 

Do you feel more focused or sure of what you’re looking for at these meetings than maybe you were in 2013? 

I think I’m a little more comfortable because I know everybody. Last year was a sort of “getting-to-know-you” process. This year, I’m a little more comfortable with our group and our fantastic group of scouts and front office folks. But I still have butterflies, like everybody else does, in anticipation of the upcoming season so I’m excited and looking forward to February.

What do you think your biggest accomplishment of the past year?

I just think the ability to understand our players, and help them, and put them in a position to succeed. We had a lot of guys who had great years and I think that’s probably the biggest accomplishment I can point to — and ultimately my job is to put them in a position to succeed and do the best they can. If each individual can do that then we have a very good chance of succeeding as a team.

What are you most looking forward to in 2015?

Just the opportunity to get back to the postseason. We want to play meaningful games in September and October. We had a little bit of a taste of it this year and we want to certainly get back there and see if we can go further this time.

What was your reaction to being named the 2014 BBWAA NL Manager of the Year?

I’m extremely proud of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) Award as well. It means to me that we have a fantastic organization and that everybody is on the same end of the rope, pulling as hard as they can to have success and be a championship club. I’m proud to be able to go to New York in January and represent us and accept that award on behalf of our organization.

***

The Nationals have added Tommy Shields to their Minor League staff, naming him co-field coordinator on Tuesday. Shields, a Fairfax, VA, native, joins Jeff Garber in that role.

Shields comes to the Nationals after spending three seasons as the manager of the Burlington Royals in the Kansas City Royals’ chain. Shields earned the Appalachian League Manager of the Year honors in 2012.

He played parts of eight Minor League seasons in the Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Chicago Cubs’ organizations. A left-handed-hitting infielder, Shields made his Major League debut in 1992 with the Baltimore Orioles but earned his first MLB plate appearance with the Chicago Cubs in 1993.

***

The MLB PR Directors announced their annual Winter Meetings auction on Monday, with a litany of incredible, unique experiences up for bid with all of the proceeds going toward LUNGevity, the largest national lung cancer-focused nonprofit.

The charity, which was the personal cause of Orioles PR Director Monica Barlow, who passed away in February at age 36 after a lengthy battle with lung cancer, works to change outcomes for people with lung cancer through research, education, and support.

The Nationals have two great experiences up for auction this year: lunch with Matt Williams and his coaching staff inside the Nationals’ clubhouse one day this upcoming season, and a grounds crew experience. You can bid on these, and many other great items here. And all of the donations will go to a fantastic cause, and in Monica’s memory.

Nationals sign LHP Matt Purke to Minor League contract with invitation to Major League Spring Training

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by Amanda Comak

The Washington Nationals re-signed left-handed pitcher Matt Purke to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training on Monday.

Purke will now remain with the organization that drafted and developed him, and will continue his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery (May 29, 2014) without any interruptions to his prescribed plan.

The Nationals, who have a wealth of experience in successfully rehabbing pitchers after the ligament replacement surgery, look forward to Purke continuing his progress in their organization.

“We are excited to keep Matt in the organization and to keep his rehab on track,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “We look forward to seeing him rebound from his surgery during the upcoming season.”

The 24-year-old left-hander was drafted by the Nationals in the third round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft as a highly-touted prospect out of Texas Christian University. Injuries have limited him to 29 Minor League appearances in the past three seasons.

On Friday, the Nationals released Purke from the Major League contract he signed shortly after he was drafted, with a plan in place to re-sign him and keep him in the organization.

Nationals agree to terms with INF/OF Kevin Frandsen

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by Amanda Comak

The Nationals agreed to terms on a Major League contract with infielder/outfielder Kevin Frandsen on Friday, avoiding arbitration and securing the affable utility man for a second season in D.C.

Frandsen, 32, hit .259 with a team-leading 11 pinch hits for the Nationals in 2014 – ranking him 10th in the National League in that category.

An exceptionally versatile player, Frandsen appeared in 105 games for the Nationals last season with time at third base, second base, left field and first base. He started 42 of those games, filling in wherever needed when the Nationals were struck by injuries while also excelling in a bench role.

Frandsen is a career .259 (320-for-1235) hitter with 57 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs and 110 RBI in 507 big league contests spanning eight seasons with the Nationals, Phillies, Angels and Giants. Against left-handed pitching, Frandsen is a career .291 hitter with a .337 on-base percentage and .415 slugging percentage.

With the signing of Frandsen, the Nationals now have 10 remaining players eligible for arbitration: LHP Jerry Blevins, RHP Tyler Clippard, LHP Ross Detwiler, INF Danny Espinosa, RHP Doug Fister, C Jose Lobaton, C Wilson Ramos, RHP Craig Stammen, RHP Drew Storen and RHP Stephen Strasburg.

Nationals announce return of entire coaching staff

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by Amanda Comak

On the heels of Washington Nationals Manager Matt Williams taking home the 2014 BBWAA National League Manager of the Year award, the Nationals announced Wednesday morning that they will welcome back all of their coaches from the 2014 staff.

In keeping bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty, hitting coach Rick Schu, third base coach Bobby Henley, first base coach Tony Tarasco, bullpen coach Matt LeCroy, and defensive coordinator/advance coach Mark Weidemaier in the fold for 2015, Williams will have stability and continuity on his staff as he enters his second year at the helm.

McCatty, the longest-tenured member of the Nationals’ Major League staff, returns for his seventh season. Knorr returns for his fourth season as the Nationals’ bench coach, and sixth year on the staff, while Tarasco and Schu will begin their third seasons on the coaching staff. Henley, LeCroy and Weidemaier will all be back for their second campaigns.

Six of the Nationals’ seven coaches had experience coaching in Washington’s system before earning their Major League assignments, making the Nationals’ an exceptionally “homegrown” staff.

This marks the first time since 2007-2008 that the Nationals have returned their entire coaching staff in successive seasons.

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