How have Mike Elias' acquisitions fared for the Orioles so far? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

How have Mike Elias’ acquisitions fared for the Orioles so far?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

After Mike Elias took the reins as the Orioles’ executive vice president and general manager November 16, a common refrain was that he wouldn’t have much time to put his stamp on the 2019 roster. He had an abbreviated offseason in which much of his attention was focused on rebuilding the club’s infrastructure rather than making major player personnel moves. The club signed only one major league free agent, Nate Karns, during the offseason.

Still, Elias has found his opportunities to tweak the roster during his six months in charge. So far, 11 players he acquired have appeared in an Orioles uniform this year. They’ve ranged from major contributors to short-term roster fillers. Let’s take a look at each.

The short-timers: Drew Jackson, Josh Lucas, Shawn Armstrong

Jackson holds the dubious distinction of being the first Elias acquisition to be jettisoned from the organization since the season started. Jackson, a Rule 5 pick acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies, lasted just three regular-season games before the club designated him for assignment. The Orioles returned him to his original organization, the Los Angeles Dodgers, on April 10.

Jackson’s exit was curiously quick. The 25-year-old, who batted .316 in spring training, was expected to serve as a jack-of-all-trades off the bench with the potential to earn more playing time. The Orioles ultimately decided they needed roster flexibility to add an extra pitcher, and the fact that Jackson couldn’t be optioned worked against him. He’s now with Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he’s batting .229 with a home run and five RBIs in 13 games.

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Lucas, who was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010 when Elias was their manager of amateur scouting, signed a minor league deal with the Orioles on November 29, two weeks after Elias joined the Orioles. The 28-year-old right-hander, who had 13 games of big league experience, had three appearances with Baltimore in April. He gave up three runs (two earned) in 4 1/3 innings. Lucas has since been outrighted back to Triple-A Norfolk.

The most recent Elias acquisition is Armstrong, a 28-year-old right-hander who pitched for Cleveland and Seattle. Coincidentally, it was the Mariners’ addition of ex-Oriole Mike Wright — Armstrong’s close friend and former college teammate — that pushed Armstrong off the Seattle roster. He’s made two appearances for the Orioles since they grabbed him on waivers April 28, throwing two scoreless innings.

The strong-armed catchers: Pedro Severino, Jesus Sucre

Elias caught many onlookers by surprise when he claimed Severino, a former Washington Nationals prospect, just five days before Opening Day. The out-of-options Severino, 25, took the roster spot that was expected to go to young catcher Chance Sisco, who was assigned to Norfolk. It has proved to be a canny decision. Severino has erupted with the bat, bashing four home runs and posting a .521 slugging percentage, second among active Orioles behind Trey Mancini’s .574. He’s also flashed his strong arm behind the plate, throwing out six of eight attempted base stealers.

Sucre, a six-year veteran signed to a minor league deal February 5, began the season as the Orioles’ regular catcher, despite getting a late start in spring training because of visa issues in his native Venezuela. He impressed the Orioles with his leadership abilities and his presence behind the plate. Sucre started 13 of the Orioles’ first 19 games, including their second of the season March 30, in which he went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in a win at Yankee Stadium.

After that standout performance, though, Sucre batted just .185 with a .458 OPS and no RBIs in 18 games. Defensively, he was charged with three passed balls and couldn’t work much magic with the Orioles’ struggling pitching staff (except when Sucre himself pitched, tossing a perfect inning April 22). The club designated him for assignment April 28 and he accepted an assignment to Norfolk two days later, on his 31st birthday. Sucre played one game for the Tides, going 0-for-5, and then went on the inactive list.

The untested infielders: Hanser Alberto, Richie Martin, Rio Ruiz

Nowhere was Elias more active this past offseason than in the infield, where he added not only four major league infielders (including the departed Jackson), but also Jack Reinheimer and Zach Vincej, currently playing for Norfolk.

Among the big leaguers, Ruiz has carved out the most regular role, serving as the Orioles’ starting third baseman in 25 of their 34 games. The Orioles claimed him on waivers from Atlanta in December, reuniting him with Elias, who selected Ruiz in the fourth round of the 2012 draft with Houston. Renato Nunez’s spring injuries and defensive struggles opened a spot at the hot corner for Ruiz, who has been steady if unspectacular. The 24-year-old is batting .233 with a .637 OPS, two homers and 10 RBIs.

Much attention has been paid to Martin, the former Oakland Athletics’ first-rounder plucked by the Orioles with the first pick of the Rule 5 draft. Martin, 24, had a solid defensive reputation in the minors but faced questions offensively, and so far, he hasn’t answered them. He’s batting just .183 with a .533 OPS, numbers that he’ll need to greatly improve if he hopes to establish an everyday role in the big leagues. With the leather, Martin has generally passed the eye test — making most of the routine plays and some spectacular ones, too — but advanced defensive metrics have been less kind. FanGraphs rates him at -4 Defensive Runs Saved, albeit in a small sample.

Perhaps the best — and certainly most versatile — of the bunch is Alberto, a player the Orioles coveted so much they acquired him twice. The club originally claimed him off waivers from the New York Yankees on Jan. 11, only to lose him on the waiver wire to San Francisco on Feb. 22. But a week later, when the Giants attempted to remove him from their 40-man roster, the Orioles swooped back in with another waiver claim on the 26-year-old. Alberto has played all around the diamond — with 10 or more appearances apiece at second base and third base, as well as two games in the outfield — and batted .305. He’s a valuable bench player for a club that has lacked depth.

The veteran hurlers: Nate Karns, Dan Straily

The Karns signing, from the start, was no guarantee to pan out. And so far, it hasn’t. When the Orioles inked the 31-year-old right-hander to a one-year, $800,000 deal in February, he hadn’t thrown a major league pitch since May 19, 2017. He underwent surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome later that year that cost him the entire 2018 season. Injuries waylaid Karns again this spring, scuttling the Orioles’ plans of using him as a starter, and he managed just four regular season appearances before a right forearm strain landed him on the IL.

Karns reported some soreness that led the Orioles to shut down his recent rehab assignment, and he plans to receive a second opinion today. It’s looking like a long shot that he’ll be back anytime soon. If the Orioles can eventually get a healthy, effective Karns back on the roster, he’ll be a welcome addition. But they can’t count on it.

With Karns unable to give the Orioles innings, the club signed another journeyman righty, Straily, on April 5. The Orioles became his sixth major league organization after his previous one, the Miami Marlins, released him at the end of spring training. Straily, so far, hasn’t worked deep into games, failing to get past five innings in any appearance. The 30-year-old is 1-2 with a 7.43 ERA.

The unexpected star: Dwight Smith Jr.

One Elias acquisition stands out among all others, and it’s Smith, who has morphed from roster-bubble fodder to top-of-the-lineup mainstay in Baltimore. Acquired from Toronto for international bonus slot money March 8, Smith was initially pegged as possible outfield depth for Norfolk. But after arriving in Orioles camp in Sarasota, all he did was hit — batting .429 with a team-leading five homers in Grapefruit League play — and he hasn’t stopped since.

Smith has a .298 average, .861 OPS, six homers and a team-leading 22 RBIs. Per Baseball Reference, he’s second on the team in Wins Above Replacement (0.8), behind only Mancini (0.9). It’s surprising that the rebuilding Blue Jays, who drafted Smith in the first round in 2011, couldn’t find room on their roster to give the 26-year-old a more extended look.

For what it’s worth, his father, Dwight Smith, also hit well for the Orioles, batting .311 with an .849 OPS in 1994. He spent only 28 games with the club, though. His son is shaping up to be more of a long-term fixture in the Baltimore lineup.

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All told, Elias’ acquisitions have been an overall positive for the Orioles, accumulating a combined 1.2 WAR according to Baseball Reference. Elias struck gold with Smith and Severino, and has gotten solid contributions from the likes of Alberto and Ruiz. None of his new players has been a total disaster, though Martin (-0.6 WAR) has struggled the most.

Elias has said his primary goal as GM is to improve the talent level in the Orioles’ organization, bit by bit. Considering the performance of the players he’s added so far, it seems he’s already headed in the right direction.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    May 6, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Nice summary and evaluation of Elias work thus far. I never liked the Karns signing. There were better options out there at that time. Karns hadn’t pitched in nearly 2 years because of injuries. So it’s no surprise he’s having arm problems.

    Smith has been a steal. I saw him in ST and was impressed with his athleticism and hitting ability. Alberto, Riuz, and Severino as mentioned has fared well too. Nice analysis.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 6, 2019 at 11:31 am

      Thanks, GSBF. I looked at the Karns signing as a low-risk, high-reward signing. He’s been a capable pitcher in the bigs (and in the AL East) when healthy, so it was worth an $800,000 flyer to find out if he had anything left. It hasn’t panned out, but it’s not costing the Orioles much.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 6, 2019 at 8:54 am

    That’s quite a list of marginal major league players that Elias has gone through is such a short time. In the past, some of y’all might have referred to this as dumpster diving. Just sayin’ …

    • VICTORTEE

      May 6, 2019 at 9:31 am

      Boog, don’t you know you are not allowed to criticize Elias. I have been told that numerous times on several forums. Drink the Orange Kool Aid Boog and join the cult.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 6, 2019 at 11:34 am

      Nobody’s saying they’re top-shelf players. At this point, with the O’s just starting the rebuilding process, most of the players they acquire are going to be guys with some flaws that other teams passed up. But sometimes you can find some nuggets among those less-heralded guys, as the Duquette/Buck regime did and as the Elias/Hyde regime is doing now.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 6, 2019 at 11:40 am

        Understood Paul. I’m just pointing out to the masses that they (the DD haters) used to be awfully quick to crucify Duquette for doing the same. The case is, in this organization, that (looking for bargains) is about all the GM can do sometimes.

        • Paul Folkemer

          May 6, 2019 at 11:45 am

          True, there are always financial restraints at play. Although I think Duquette got more criticism than Elias for “dumpster diving” because the O’s were supposed to be contenders and fans wanted more established players. There are no such illusions of contention under Elias, at least not for the next couple of years, so it makes sense that he’s not going for established talent.

      • Jbigle1

        May 6, 2019 at 11:44 am

        Dumpster diving when you’re projected to the fight for the playoffs and dumpster diving when you’re projected to win 55 games are two very different things. At least our gambles have had some relative youth on their side this time around. Sisco was the IL hitter of the week btw. Batted .600 with 5 bombs and his awful start at the plate has been erased. Such is life w a small sample size.

  3. Le Merlu

    May 6, 2019 at 9:00 am

    It’s not like the jury is still out, but more like the jury have not still settled in the jury room.
    The situation at C position is looking much better than last year as of right now, though.

  4. GSISDANNO

    May 6, 2019 at 9:03 am

    I think it is way too early to evaluate the players he has brought in. He was already behind the right-back when started. Kudos to the new GM on acquiring Dwight Smith Jr. He is someone you can build around.
    I am more interested in hearing about all the players we acquired for Machado, Brach, Britton, Gausman and ODay. With the exception of Villar, are any of these guys who have a future – or did Duquette get taken?

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 6, 2019 at 11:37 am

      That could be an idea for a future article, Danno. It’s too early to tell on a lot of the players acquired in those trades, especially the ones in the low minors. I will say the Machado trade is looking good (Bannon is having a breakout year, Kremer was excellent after the O’s acquired him last year, and Diaz has great potential even if he’s been disappointing so far). The Britton trade, not so much, considering Dillon Tate’s struggles.

      • Jbigle1

        May 6, 2019 at 11:48 am

        Don’t forget Pop, who could be a GB specialist in our bullpen as early as next season.

    • NormOs

      May 6, 2019 at 12:20 pm

      No, IMHO Duquette got even. When he wasn’t allowed to take the job in Toronto we had a GM that didn’t want to be here so we got NOTHING in return for six major league players.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 6, 2019 at 12:47 pm

        To think DD ‘tanked’ the trades to get even is ridiculous. If that were true, no organization would ever consider him as a GM again.
        And it’s a little early to declare that he got nothing in return. Example … Schoop for Villar is looking like a decent deal ‘eh?

    • Camden Brooks

      May 6, 2019 at 6:54 pm

      Agree with Boog on this one. Ridiculous to say we got nothing in those trades, especially this early in the first full season after the trades.

  5. Fareastern89

    May 6, 2019 at 9:21 am

    Compared with Craig Gentry, Colby Rasmus, and Danny Valencia, this group looks pretty good. Smith and Severino might be keepers. I’m not surprised the pitching hasn’t worked out — I would imagine it’s very difficult to find decent pitchers on the waiver wire. The infield defense is vastly improved over last year, and as much as Martin has struggled at the plate, his average is still higher than Chris Davis’. All these guys need to do is hold down the fort until the prospects start to arrive. Paul — any idea why Sucre is on the inactive list?

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 6, 2019 at 11:41 am

      I haven’t heard why Sucre is inactive. Perhaps Rich might know. If it’s a personal issue, the Orioles understandably wouldn’t be forthcoming with that info.

      • Hallbe62

        May 6, 2019 at 6:34 pm

        Contract clause dispute on Sucre’s situation

        • Hallbe62

          May 6, 2019 at 6:44 pm

          Now Roch is reporting that Sucre was waiting to move his family and belongings to Norfolk. The contract dispute & this might be related

  6. ZantiGM

    May 6, 2019 at 9:43 am

    I was very excited when O’s brought Elias in and he was who I wanted them to get BUT other then Smith and Severino i am very disappointed and underwhelmed at the other acquisitions.
    Much too early to be concerned as much roster tweaking to come.
    I like Rios better than Martin….Martin will never be more than a .220-.230 hitter with no pop.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 6, 2019 at 11:42 am

      It’s important to remember that a lot of these guys are just placeholders who aren’t going to be part of the next winning O’s team. They’re holding down the fort until some prospects are ready to come up (though the O’s could use more prospects, too).

  7. Jbigle1

    May 6, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Sevy and Smith obviously have been two diamonds in the rough. I think O’s fans need to remember we acquired all these guys via waiver claim or very small trade. We gave up nothing to get them. Getting solid production from any of them is a plus. These guys have high fail rates as they’ve essentially just been tossed away by their old organizations.

    I’m just hoping whatever we flip Givens for pans out. I’m torn on moving Mancini. He’s not especially young and this is probably as high as his value will ever be. But it is nice to have a real big leaguer in the lineup. At his age and controllability I feel like you could go either way.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 6, 2019 at 2:54 pm

      I wouldn’t expect Mancini to be traded this year, barring an offer that blows the Orioles away. He’s under team control for three years after this one, so the new administration doesn’t need to be in a rush to move him. Givens, yes, I think will be traded sooner.

    • Camden Brooks

      May 6, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      And I think you can add Cashner to the same list as Givens.

  8. Orial

    May 6, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Seems that there are a few on here(oh you know who you are) who who either bash Elias or are too defensive of Duquette. All our hopes riding on Elias is laughable in some eyes. Sure he’s currently dumpster diving at the present. What else is there for him to do? With a combination of more tools to work with and a solid track record Elias will be fine. Constantly bashing Elias at this point is kinda “head scratching”. That being said his “dumpster diving” for Smith Jr and Ruiz stand out to me. Let’s wait 2 years to execute judgement on Elias. Vendettas don’t cut it.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 6, 2019 at 12:52 pm

      I assume I’m one of your targets. Hey … I didn’t criticize Elias at all, although I do defend Duquette.

      All I’m doing is pointing out that some things are beyond a GM’s control. Diving around here seems to be a necessity. Hopefuly Mr. Elias will be better at it than Duquette … but that’s not to say Duquette wasn’t adept at the art himself. You do what you can with your hands tied to help the team in Bal’more.

      • Orial

        May 6, 2019 at 1:42 pm

        I actually feel bad for Duquette in the sense the Elias has been given more assets to work with out of the gate than Dan could ever dream of. I’ll defend both of them though Elias has a more modern progressive way of looking at operations than Dan did.

    • Camden Brooks

      May 6, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      I’ll defend DD, Buck, and Elias. Let us not forget those guys know more about running a team than this entire board combined. My only pet peeve on this site is when guys are SOOO quick to criticize, and then insinuate they had the answers all along.

  9. Beeb

    May 6, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    The Elias Experiment is interesting. So far, he is tanking or simply learning on the job. Year 1….grade D. He is fortunate that he has a blank check for year 1 and 2 failure.

    • Paul Folkemer

      May 6, 2019 at 2:59 pm

      What are you basing your D grade on, Beeb? Elias has been on the job for less than half a year. He hasn’t even had his first draft yet.

    • Borg

      May 10, 2019 at 5:48 am

      If you think he’s tanking then you must believe he purposely passed on better ballplayers in order to get a higher draft position. So…care to list who should be on this roster instead of the current crop of players? Most of the current group will be gone in two seasons, replaced by minor leaguers who have advanced enough to get to the majors. It isn’t any more complicated than that–if you want to homegrow most of the talent on the major league roster it is going to take a few seasons to develop it and establish some sort of pipeline. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cashner, Givens, and perhaps even Bundy moved if people want them, especially if a contender loses a pitcher to long-term injury. I’d like to see them lock up Mancini for two or three years past his arbitration years right now. At 27 he should be entering a four to six year period of pretty productive offense, and they could be contenders sometime within that window. At some point, you have to keep your stars–continually trading for prospects gets you…prospects.

  10. BirdsCaps

    May 6, 2019 at 2:41 pm

    We’ll find out if he is any good in about two or three years. If we become successful he’ll be good, and if we can sustain success then he’ll be a great acquisition.

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