LAS VEGAS — Mike Elias is less than a month into his job as Orioles executive vice president and general manager, but his vision seems clear. After he hires a manager and coaching staff, he wants to construct a club that can improve upon its franchise-worst 115 losses.
However, that’s not the primary goal.
“I want to improve the aggregate talent base of this organization and that’s going to come in the form of additions to this organization via the draft, international signings, perhaps some trades that might occur,” Elias said during his Monday session at the Winter Meetings.
“I’d like to see the record improve, but our organizational goal, our organizational direction is to improve the aggregate talent base across this organization. That’s our directive, first and foremost. My hope and expectation is that will come alongside an improvement in the major league record.”
Elias dismissed scouting director Gary Rajsich and minor league chief Brian Graham, and is looking for replacements. He didn’t offer reasons for their terminations.
“This is an area, scouting and player development, where I’ve been my whole career,” Elias said. “We’ve had a lot of success in that area across two different organizations and the reason we were brought here … It’s going to be a major focus of this organization for the next few years and beyond …We’ll get the right people. We’ll get them in good time … It’s an area I’ll be very personally involved this year.”
When Dan Duquette was fired as executive vice president on Oct. 3, Graham, Rajsich and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson remained under contract. Anderson is the only one who remains, and he is in Las Vegas this week.
“There’s a lot of good people here,” Elias said. “They’re doing good work. They’re helping out across a lot of areas. I view him as no different. He has a lot of institutional knowledge, not only as a front-office executive, but also dating back to when he was a player that is very valuable to me. We’ll keep working and figure out what is the best way to deploy that and provide value to me and to us. I’m working very well with a lot of these guys here, and he’s one of them.”
Elias said no trades of veteran players were imminent, and that he viewed Jonathan Villar as the team’s primary shortstop. Villar played for Houston while Elias was with the Astros before he was traded to Milwaukee.
Elias did not specify positions he’s targeting for upgrades.
“We’ll look for improvements everywhere,” Elias said. “I can’t say with any certainty that there’s going to be outside free-agent help brought in in any position.
“The players that are here on the major league roster and in the minor leagues, we want to see them get better. To me, this season, this year, will be a success if we see the talent base across the entire organization, from top to bottom, go in the right direction. We’ve also got a lot of investment in infrastructure-related projects that we want to get going.”
To get that talent level up, the minor leagues are going to have to improve.
“I’m very accustomed to having an elite farm system, wherever I’ve been,” Elias said. “That’s what I’m used to.
“Are we there? Is this a Top 5, Top 10 farm system right now? I don’t think there’s a lot of rankings that would place the farm system in that regard. There are a lot of individual players in the farm system that I’m very excited about. I think there are some really good pieces there.
“I think there are some really good pieces on the major league roster, but my standards are really high just because where I’ve been in my career and what we’ve been able to do. I won’t be satisfied until I feel that that’s the case here.”
Elias said he hopes to have a manager by the end of the month but that free agents aren’t concerned about that.
“People know that this is a good organization,” Elias said. “It’s a great place to play. It’s a great ballpark to play in. It’s a great town to play in. They’re excited about the direction that we’re taking the franchise.
“This is going to be a wonderful place to play. They’re excited to talk to us. The reality is that we’ve got a lot going on. We’re not going to be a fast mover, I don’t expect, in the free-agent market. We’re going to monitor it very carefully and be active in that regard and see what plays out.”