Elias' first year with Orioles is a qualified success - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Elias’ first year with Orioles is a qualified success

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Mike Elias’ first year as the Orioles’ top baseball executive is over, and despite another horrid won/loss record, it’s a qualified success.

The Orioles weren’t meant to be competitive this season, and they weren’t. It was nice they won seven more games than they did a year ago, but at some point, a much larger leap ahead is going to be needed.

That probably won’t happen next year, but as Elias repeatedly pointed out, this was a year for hunting and gathering talent.

There’s much more talent in the organization than there was a year ago, and some of the players who were already on hand on October 1, 2018 are in a better place.

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A year ago, John Means was a desperation late addition to a depleted roster in the season’s final weeks. Today, he’s the staff leader and a contender for American League Rookie of the Year.

Anthony Santander was a shaky outfielder who had fallen behind several others on the depth chart. Despite a late-season skid that could be attributed to injuries, Santander is a solid outfield candidate for 2020.

So is Austin Hays, who was rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle. After an energized final three weeks with the Orioles, Hays has established himself as the likely Opening Day centerfielder.

Hunter Harvey was a starter who had teased and disappointed the Orioles with a series of injuries, and now he’s a possible late-inning reliever.

Trey Mancini had a dynamic year and is the leader and star of the club.

There are many disappointments, too.

When Elias took the job last November, he sent an email to season ticket-holders, naming four players he thought the team could build around: Mancini, starter Dylan Bundy, reliever Mychal Givens and centerfielder Cedric Mullins.

Bundy and Givens’ seasons were poor ones, and  Mullins’ was a total loss.

Bundy could remain with the club while Givens’ future is in question. Mullins, who began the season in center field but was dropped to Triple-A Norfolk, then Double-A Bowie, was just 6-for-64 with the Orioles in the seasons’ early weeks.

The Orioles are sending Mullins to a private batting school in California in an attempt to remake him as a hitter.

Elias used the waiver wires and low-cost trades to acquire some stopgap players. Some performed well for a time: reliever Shawn Armstrong, starters Aaron Brooks and Asher Wojciechowski, catcher Pedro Severino and outfielder Dwight Smith Jr..

Severino played well in the season’s first half with an .818 OPS but slumped badly to .644 in the second half.

His defense lagged, too. Severino threw out six of the first nine baserunners who attempted to steal against him but ended the season by allowing 76 percent of runners (42 of 55) to steal against him.

Smith also had a strong first half with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs through early June when he suffered a concussion. He had just two home runs and 12 RBIs after that.

Armstrong had a nice May after he was claimed on waivers from Seattle, pitching to a 2.45 ERA and 1.182 WHIP. He ended his Orioles season with a 5.13 ERA and 1.546.

On the other hand, Hanser Alberto, who was lost on waivers to San Francisco but quickly regained, hit .305, but had just a .329 on-base percentage. He might be a useful infielder going forward.

The only personnel move that backfired on Elias was trading outfielder Mike Yastrzemski to the Giants in March for minor league pitcher Tyler Herb.

Yastrzemski hit 21 home runs and had an .852 OPS in 107 games, but Elias gets a pass here. Mike Yaz had been available for the taking in the past three Rule 5 drafts and wasn’t selected.

Despite former general manager Dan Duquette’s affinity for New England players, Yastrzemski had never been called up to the Orioles—even in their 115-loss season in 2018.

Elias has shown he’s in charge in the boardroom, too. He’s made over the front office and minor leagues, and his dismissals include popular former Orioles Brady Anderson, Scott McGregor, Ryan Minor and B.J. Surhoff.

Fans who doubted if Elias was going to be given authority aren’t doubting it now.

The many personnel moves that Elias has made haven’t been announced, but he’s held news briefings to discuss them.

In fact, Elias has been more accessible than initially expected, regularly meeting with the press to talk about not only the news of the day, but for chats about the draft, the trading deadline and a review of the season.

Elias was given high marks for the Orioles’ draft, but they’re going to need additional drafts to become relevant.

Next season, some of the better pitching prospects: Keegan Akin, Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and Bruce Zimmermann will continue to inch closer to the major leagues, but just like this season, Elias will not nudge them to the Orioles until he thinks they have a reasonable chance of success.

It couldn’t have been easy for Elias to watch his first year as a major league general manager end with 108 losses. Next year might be even more difficult because the smaller fan base won’t be as patient.

Fewer than 100 losses wouldn’t necessarily satisfy them, yet another year of irrelevancy is likely.

The good news is that the Orioles finally have a plan. Elias isn’t making things up as he goes along. Though he’s not disclosing a timetable, a year from now, the farm system should be more replete, the major league team shouldn’t have as many placeholders, and his plan should be easier and perhaps more fun to track.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. karks

    October 1, 2019 at 7:32 am

    There were definitely some positive steps. And I think that those individual success stories show that, over time, this team can become competitive again.

    I just hope that some of this young pitching can take the next step and help at the Major League level.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2019 at 8:33 am

      Always nice to hear from a new voice. Thanks for stopping by, Karks.

  2. Ekim

    October 1, 2019 at 7:36 am

    Rich… That was a nice rehash of the first year of the “Elias era”. Summing it up… patience, patience, patience! It will be hard but it’s the bottom line. Just saying…

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 1, 2019 at 8:02 am

    Obviously I missed the boat on this one as this is the first definitive report I’ve read that Elias “fired” our Minister of Vitamin B … Brady Anderson! I believe I have a new found respect for Mr. Elias. Good job Mike. I look forward to you closing the book on Crush.

    BTW … Good read this morning Mr. Dubroff, and you have a point. Count me in as one of … how did you word it … the “fans who doubted if Elias was going to be given authority who aren’t doubting it now”.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2019 at 8:35 am

      Thank you, Ken.

    • CalsPals

      October 1, 2019 at 11:03 am

      Totally agree, first I’ve heard of Brady Anderson’s removal, have a feeling he was undermining others…go O’s…

      • Hallbe62

        October 2, 2019 at 2:56 pm

        He most certainly was.

  4. Fareastern89

    October 1, 2019 at 8:16 am

    Good summary, Rich, and your point about Givens is well-taken. Given his salary situation, would you be surprised to see him traded — probably for a minimal return, at this point?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2019 at 8:36 am

      Thank you, Fareastern.

      I expect Givens to be traded.

  5. Baltimore Castaway

    October 1, 2019 at 8:25 am

    Elias gets a lot of credit for his accomplishments in 2019. I don’t think his wife and children saw him too much this Summer… he also has been and remains the team’s Scouting Director.

    I look forward to another very strong draft w them picking at #2, an even better year w signing International Players, and the further development of the Team’s Minor League Players–something that has not been done well since the Good Old Days of Harry Dalton and Frank Cashen…

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2019 at 8:41 am

      Castaway, Mike Snyder was named Director of Pro Scouting a few weeks back and Brad Ciolek, who was acting scouting director, will oversee draft preparations.

      I don’t like to comment on people’s private lives, but I did see Mike’s wife and daughter at the ballpark this summer.

      • Baltimore Castaway

        October 1, 2019 at 9:35 am

        Thank you for the reminder on Mike Snyder and Brad Ciolek.

        My mentioning his family was purely intended to be a commentary on the many many hours of very hard work that the has put in for this organization since he started last Autumn.

  6. deqalt

    October 1, 2019 at 8:51 am

    Rich great summary! Thanks for trying to make this season interesting.

    Orioles getting under 100 losing is meaningless for 2020. There is no difference between 115 losses, 108 losses, and 95 losses. The idea that fans might not be okay with 90 plus losses. I would rather lose 115 games and get the #1 pick. There all terrible seasons. Unless Chris Davis is taking a spot from someone else who is apart of the future, which he is not yet why do we care if he is dumped our not.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2019 at 8:57 am

      Thank you, deqalt.

    • Phil770

      October 1, 2019 at 9:48 am

      CD is taking a spot. Can’t have Mancini, Nunez, Mountcastle, and Davis on the roster together.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 1, 2019 at 11:20 am

      The difference between 115 losses and 95 losses is 20 losses. Less losses = More Wins. This means I go to bed happier 20 more times each summer.

    • Camden Brooks

      October 1, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      I’m 100% with Boog here. Winning breeds chemistry, and chemistry breeds winning.

    • Borg

      October 2, 2019 at 6:08 am

      The only gripe I have with that thinking is that the goal you have in mind seems to be to get the #1 draft pick each year rather than get better. I would counter that it is going to be easier to turn things around a bit more quickly with a 90 loss team getting the #3 or #4 pick than with a 115 loss team getting the #1 pick. Besides, in baseball there is no real way to predict where the next star is coming from and #1 picks in baseball have a far worse track record than in football or basketball. Build a winning team as quickly as possible and let the draft picks fall where they may. I’d be happy if they pick #10 in 2021 because it means they are progressing.

  7. Tony Paparella

    October 1, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Excellently written article which sums things up well.Also giving us info on the organizational moves many of us not aware of like Snyder and Ciolek keep us more involved and abreast of the ongoing process..I myself cannot wait until some of the youngsters get up here and also hoping that Dwight Smith can get back on track and Santander,Hays, Alberto,and Means and others continue to progress forward.It does seem that Alberto not being taken serious enough at this point by many and I guess it is because outside of hitting for average his game is so so.I believe he can be a plus to the team in the future if he continues what he is doing.The team performed well offensively in my opinion and I am hoping for some pitching success in the future.Right now what they have is more than questionable and is being used only because they are in a holding pattern until certain subjects are ready.

  8. Hallbe62

    October 1, 2019 at 9:34 am

    This one is in the books. Is it a qualified success ? Yeah….maybe. Elias has his work cut out for him. He can’t return with the same players he has now and must start finding some diamonds in the rough. No position on the diamond is sound for the Orioles right now.
    Move Mancini to his natural position (1B), and there you have your lone “mlb ready” player on this team.

    Yes, Elias gets a pass this season, but he shouldn’t think that will happen every year for the next 4 years. Don’t charade yourselves with the notion that W’s & L’s don’t matter.

    They matter very much.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      October 1, 2019 at 9:55 am

      For the Orioles to cobble together a team of rejects and Free Agents in an effort to be more competitive at this time would go completely against the grain for what Elias and Company are doing.

      This team needs to lather, rinse and repeat with a very high draft position at least another two years in order for them to obtain an elite and sufficient Farm System pool of talent.

      The culprit here is the now idle Managing Partner who for years took that same approach with trying to win without a well-functioning Front Office, Scouting System and Player Development System..

      This team was at the Foot of the Cross when John and Lou finally bit the bullet and brought in someone who knows what they are doing and to let them do their job. I am grateful that they finally saw things for what they were and had the stones to do it and to stick with the plan.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 1, 2019 at 11:30 am

        Tanking is a cheaters shortcut unworthy our town. The tanking handbook is completely unsustainable, but the sheer fact that after you finally win a few … you go back to picking last. What do you do then? Lose on purpose again? Like I’ve said before around here, no of the truly top notch teams do this. Case in point, the Sox, Yankees, Dodgers & Cardinals,

        If Elias really knows what he’s doing, and has this great scouting/talent recognition instinct, he’ll draft well no matter what position he drafts in.

        • Baltimore Castaway

          October 1, 2019 at 2:22 pm

          I don’t think that the team the Orioles put on the field for their 162 games this season played to lose.

          They hustled and did their best.

          I find it interesting when people say that tanking is unethical or cheating.

          Here’s a question for you Sir; Is it ethical for the Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox to spend $100M to $150M more in payroll every year than the Orioles simply because they can??

          This is cheating in my opinion. The Orioles must take this time to reposition themselves to get a viable minor league system and a useful and functional International source of talent. Why, you ask? Because the team suffered greatly at the hands of an owner who refused to let real baseball people run the team without interference from Angelos.

          You probably were pissed when they traded Machado and Schoop et al when they did last year–I was too. I wanted them to trade them a year or two earlier because they would have gotten a lot more for them… We have to face the realities here. The large market teams have to be dealt with differently, they can be outsmarted–look at Oakland and Tampa.

          Lastly, MLB and Rob Manfred are blatantly conspiring to put the Orioles out of business here in Baltimore. They screw this team every change they can. They have to do this in order to survive.

          I am glad that Elias is doing what he is doing, and I don’t think it is cheating….

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            October 2, 2019 at 10:11 am

            I don’t believe any of the players played to lose either. I think upper management intentionally put them in a position to lose. Agreed, the players did their best. They could care less what position the team drafts in next year.

            I certainly believe losing on purpose is unethical. Cheating? I guess that would be a matter of semantics.

            I do believe it’s ethical for the big market teams to pay spend great amounts more than the small market teams. No problem with that at all. The small market teams could do the same thing if they wanted to cut into their profit margin. DO I LIKE IT”? No I don’t like it. I would love to see a hard salary cap put into place such as the NFL uses. It would certainly help bring parity to baseball. But no, it’s not unethical for the Dodgers, Yanks & Sox to outspend us.

            Yes, I was upset they traded Schoop. Thought it was unnecessary. However, I LOVED IT when they traded Machado. If you have been reading the posts here at BB.Com for the past couple years, you’d know I had a large distaste for the immature and narcissistic nature of the man. I also believe he was somewhat overrated. I thought his attitude, lack of hustle, abhorrent base running and cheap shot nature was an embarrassment to the team and likely a bad example for the clubhouse.

            So you believe MLB and specifically Manfred want to rid MLB of the Baltimore franchise? Never heard that said before. Can’t think of anything to back it up, and my1st instinct is to laugh, but I’ll refrain and give it some thought. (OK …no I won’t really)

            And I like Elias. And I like most of what he’s doing … sans the tank job. Here’s the litmus though .. after we draft all these top picks and win a half dozen or so world series … how effective will Elias and staff be drafting in the bottom of the rounds? Hopefully they’ll be like the Yanks, Sox, Cards & Dodgers and somehow find super talent without having the number one pick each year. Tanking isn’t necessary, and it’s cheating the fans out of their ticket and beer money. Unethical yes.

  9. AZ ORIOLES Fan

    October 1, 2019 at 9:45 am

    It was an improvement over last year the team battled each and every day there was no quit in this group. Yes we don’t have a full squad of major leaguers but we have some interesting pieces. I agree Santander and Hays will be in the outfield, our infield is weak defensively; Villar is an interesting piece and I think better suited for second with Trey on first.

    I think the comments on Davis are telling in that it was only said he would be at Spring Training; I will admit I thought he might retire. This is three straight years of sub par hitting. I remain optimistic that 2021 or 2022 we will be competing for the post season….

  10. whiterose

    October 1, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Not blaming you, Rich. But still no mention of Elias (or Hyde) contract length.
    This is a very important part of the rebuild and paying fans need to know.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2019 at 12:16 pm

      I think it’s pretty clear that Elias’ contract is not a short-term one. When Dan Duquette was hired in November 2011, he got a three-year deal and given a four-year extension after the 2012 season.

      It would be surprising if Elias had a contract as short as three years.

      Many first-time managers get three-year contracts.

  11. willmiranda

    October 1, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Thanks, Rich, for the fine overview of the management situation. I’m glad you took the half-full end of the qualified success/qualified failure spectrum. Elias stopped the bleeding and fired Anderson, the switchman at dysfunction junction, all to his credit. Also, all the personnel movement, on and off the field, has put the magnifying glass on everyone, leading to sharper evaluations by management, media, and even fans, another plus. And I think the evaluation process has motivated some people to better performances, with the knowledge that their efforts will be noticed. I still remain among those who see a difference between 115 losses and 95 losses and who believe that a certain level of competence can be maintained –at least in spirit– while a renewal is taking place.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Will, I see a difference between 115 and 95 losses, too.

      Mike made the point at a preseason availability that he didn’t want to throw money in an attempt to try to get near .500.

      This looks like a measured rebuild, but buying bridge free agents for a year or two doesn’t seem like his thing.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      • willmiranda

        October 1, 2019 at 12:45 pm

        Thanks for the reply, Rich. I don’t think I have ever suggested buying bridge free agents. I have refused a fatalism that encourages a complacency that says “We’re no good and no one expects us to be good. We’re just marking time until some real players come.” I think the team should play its best and try to win as many games as possible with the players they have. The O’s may have lost their last game, but they won their last
        series against the reigning, but not remaining, World Champs. I know they don’t like three-game series in Delmarva, but I’ll take two out of three. As for bridge free agents, I don’t think there are any. No decent player, unless he’s facing bankruptcy, is going to sign for that role or be successful at it. It is one thing for a stalwart already on the team to remain through hard times, but quite another for a hireling to move in.

  12. ButchBird59

    October 1, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    “The Orioles are sending Mullins to a private batting school in California in an attempt to remake him as a hitter.”
    I wish him well. From all I’ve seen here and in interviews, he seems like a fine young man.

    • Camden Brooks

      October 1, 2019 at 2:17 pm

      Rich, any word on whether the Orioles were able to get a Groupon for that hitting school?!?

  13. Shamus

    October 1, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I’m behind Elias 100%…. can’t wait until the O ‘s are in it to win it. I just hope Hyde is around to enjoy the good times as well

  14. Miller192

    October 1, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    I’m not ready to label anything that Elias has done as a success yet. Sure, he’s laid out a plan that seems both innovative and necessary but it’s too far too early.

    He’s added bodies to the club but that hasn’t translated into anything yet.

    It’s great that he’s cleaned house but these guys were also here when the team was good. They didn’t suddenly become bad baseball guys because Elias fired them.

    I think Hyde was a good addition for this type of team. He’s holding them accountable and expecting them to perform like major league ball players.

    So, for me, the word “successful” is the wrong choice of words. He’s building something but what that turns out to be is yet to be seen.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2019 at 8:21 pm

      Miller, you make some interesting points. I don’t recall hearing from you before, and I hope you’ll comment more frequently.

      • Miller192

        October 2, 2019 at 5:14 pm

        Thanks, Rich. I think I’ll hang around

    • CalsPals

      October 2, 2019 at 8:02 am

      How did he hold CD accountable when he went after him, no one in the organization did…go O’s…

  15. Bhoffman1

    October 1, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    I applaud you Rich for staying positive with a lot of the skepticism I sent to you this season. The other chat I follow Camden Chat they were more angry like me. I’m going to have to somehow get the games next year even though my cable provider does not have MBL games. Cedric Mullins why the hype. He can catch but can’t throw. We have a CF in Hays and capable backup in Williams. Mountcastle should hopefully be in left and maybe even Diaz sometime next year. Time to say Adios to Mullins.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 2, 2019 at 8:45 am

      Bruce, I’m not trying to be positive or negative. I’m trying to be realistic after covering 125 games in person this season.

      If your cable provider doesn’t have the Extra Innings package, you can subscribe to MLBTV and watch on your computer.

    • Bhoffman1

      October 2, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      I know but I really want to watch on the big screen. Are you going to post in the off season

  16. Bhoffman1

    October 1, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Why Mullins there is no position for a little guy in the OF who has no power and can throw. We have a CF in Hays now. We have a International league MVP in Mountcastle ready to go. We have capable back ups in Williams and DJ and possibly we will see Diaz sometime next year.Adios to Mullins we let Yastrzemski go and Mullins will never hit 20 HR. Great job Rich staying upbeat all year.

    • Bhoffman1

      October 1, 2019 at 9:36 pm

      Can’t throw

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 2, 2019 at 8:48 am

      The Orioles still believe Mullins can be a piece, Bruce. At his best, he’s far better than Mason Williams. With a 26th man next season, the Orioles will be able to carry an extra position player and an extra outfielder could work for them.

    • Bhoffman1

      October 2, 2019 at 4:21 pm

      Don’t agree with you on that one. Williams can hit. He was showing swagger in the CF and if he hadn’t run into the wall I bet he would have hit around 300

  17. Bonzai12

    October 6, 2019 at 8:25 am

    Fantastic Article.. I’ve enjoyed your insight all year Rich..

    I couldn’t be more excited about the Orioles future than I am right..
    We finally have a Organizational game plan..that’s being implemented from A ball on up..

    Do I like losing….absolutely not, but it’s a necessary evil to overcome decades of mismanagement and as long as we’re heading in the right direction.. I’m going to be patient and let the man do his job…

    Coming to a team and basically starting over from scratch, with a farm system mostly devoid of any ML talent.. No international presence and one of the worst contracts in baseball.. how can you not think he’s been successful since he’s started?

    All I need now is the Yankees to get knocked out and I’m good…

    And finally how many days are there to the season opener??

  18. 33d St

    October 11, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    They are, some of the guys who improve simply got healthier. Mancini got a nice boost in his age 27 season but his progression is pretty normal. And we have no idea what Means will be like next year.

    At the ML level it’s a wash for me. Some guys had bad years too. Fluctuations that happen statistically.

    To me, the only way this season is a success is if the improvements at the minor-league levels are a product of the new analytics approach they introduced down there. If those prove to be lasting improvements, and we have multiple successful minor-league teams again next year, then I am much more inclined to agree that we are going the right direction.

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