Elias attends his first GM meetings as Orioles' top baseball executive; call for reader questions - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Elias attends his first GM meetings as Orioles’ top baseball executive; call for reader questions

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Mike Elias celebrates his first anniversary as the Orioles’ top baseball executive this week, when he represents the team at the general managers’ meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Trades will undoubtedly be on Elias’ mind when he meets with his counterparts, starting today.

The only major trade Elias pulled off in his first year was the deal that sent starting pitcher Andrew Cashner to Boston last July for two 17-year-old Dominican Summer League players.

The Orioles have seven players eligible for arbitration, and they must offer those players contracts by December 2.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Elias move quickly this offseason and deal either infielder Jonathan Villar or reliever Mychal Givens, and perhaps both. As Elias acknowledged in his interview last Thursday on 105.7 The Fan, the Orioles are operating within a budget, and that could influence whether players are traded or offered contracts.

Villar, who had a career year in 2019 with 24 home runs and 40 stolen bases, was projected to draw a $10.4 million salary by MLBTradeRumors.com in his last season of eligibility for arbitration. That sounds pricey for the Orioles, and Elias will gauge the market in Scottsdale.

The Orioles could always offer Villar a contract and try to trade him before spring training, but they’re unlikely to get a better deal than by moving him quickly.

Last year, Elias declined to offer contracts to Tim Beckham and Caleb Joseph. This year, besides Givens and Villar, Hanser Alberto, Richard Bleier, Dylan Bundy, Miguel Castro and Trey Mancini are eligible for arbitration.

Perhaps the most interesting part of Elias’ interview was his assertion that the Orioles aren’t looking to trade Mancini, who hit 35 home runs and had 97 RBIs. “We expect him to stay here.”

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Elias wasn’t as direct about Mancini before last July’s trade deadline. Keeping Mancini would be a popular move among Oriole fans, who have made him the unofficial face of a rebuilding franchise.

After watching a number of favorite players leave in trades or free agency in 2018 and suffering through 222 losses the last two seasons, the dwindling fan base is eager for something positive.

Former manager Buck Showalter used to tell underperforming players that fans wanted to embrace them, and they should give fans something to cheer about.

Oriole fans have had precious little to cheer about over the last two seasons.

Elias has gone out of his way not to attach a timeline to the team’s improvement, saying that while the win/loss record is disappointing, the team won’t try to artificially accelerate the timeline.

By all accounts, the Orioles had a solid draft in 2019 and picking second in 2020 should provide more top-shelf talent.

There isn’t likely to be any free agent signings of note. None of the top 50 free agents in MLBTradeRumors’ rankings is predicted to fall to the Orioles, but the Orioles are listed as one of a number of teams who could have interest in right-hander Ivan Nova, who’s ranked 48th.

Nova, who tied for the major league lead in starts (34) and led in hits allowed (225), threw 187 innings, more than anyone on the Orioles, but he made more than $9 million last year, and a price close to that isn’t going to appeal to Elias.

Any free agents the Orioles sign are likely to be signed to minor league contracts or inexpensive major league deals. Last offseason, the Orioles signed just one major league free agent, pitcher Nate Karns, who threw just 5 1/3 innings.

Early in the season, they signed another, Dan Straily, who had a 9.82 ERA.

Elias would like to do better this time around. He’ll use his time in Scottsdale to listen to agents, and listen again at next month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego.

The indication that Mancini would likely stay for 2020 was about the most positive thing Elias could say. He’s tried to be transparent about his plans, but even fans who understand the need to rebuild are eager for more to embrace.

Many were disappointed that FanFest was canceled, and the team has yet to announce plans for fan-friendly events to substitute for the annual January event.

Fans watching all those losses can trek to Aberdeen, Delmarva, Frederick or Bowie to look at the Orioles of the future. This year, they’ll see a full season of catcher Adley Rutschman, last year’s top draft choice. They’ll see others who might be teammates of Rutschman’s in Baltimore.

As the offseason gathers speed, fans hope that when spring training begins in three months that Elias’ work in Scottsdale will present them with a more appealing team to watch in 2020.

Question time: This week, I’ll be answering readers’ questions about the Orioles. If you have any questions, and I know you’re not shy, please leave them in the comment boxes or email them to me: [email protected].

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. chico salmon

    November 11, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Rich, it seems like MLB is evaluating the state of the game. Attendance is down overall, etc. My questions: is there an appetite for re-alignment? I read that it is under consideration. Secondly, why doesn’t MASN have a streaming app?
    Thanks for your column. I always find it interesting.

  2. Orial

    November 11, 2019 at 8:05 am

    $10 million is too much for the budget? Boy I hope that’s a temporary term. I can see a step backward next year if that’s possible without Villar’s offense. Nova would be a solid addition. Elias seems to be aiming for a defensive SS. Seems we’ve heard that before. Just hope they don’t go gung ho on the Rule 5–it just eems to clog the roster up with players who should really be in the minors.

  3. deqalt

    November 11, 2019 at 8:46 am

    That’s probably one of the most depressing articles and summary of what’s happening. Literally zero reason to follow the Orioles for the next year. This winter is finding cheap place holders. I’m sorry but we the fans need to look in the mirror. Life is too short to be following this mess. No reason to follow this team right now. I’ll follow the minor leaguers. Mike Elias has zero history or emotion to the Orioles. I have no doubt he is working as hard as possible to change the future, but there is a certain coldness and lack of caring about the now.

  4. Fareastern89

    November 11, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Actually, I think there will be more reasons to watch the O’s next year than in 2019: a full season of Hays and Harvey, and sometime during the season the debuts of Mountcastle and Akin, and possibly others. I’ll be looking for individual performances and improvement, rather than more wins for the team. Each year from now on should bring more young talent to the major league level, and eventually that should pay off — although there never are any guarantees.

    • CalsPals

      November 11, 2019 at 9:29 am

      Hopefully Hays & Harvey can make it a full season, not sure why I’m even saying it, but there is no reason for Mountcastle to start in the minors again, this is either a professional franchise putting their best players on the field or not, no debate, end of story…go O’s…

      • Fareastern89

        November 11, 2019 at 10:33 am

        Even if you discount the judgment of both Buck and Elias, who have said that Mountcastle needs to work on his plate discipline and his defense, you might take the long view, which gives the O’s an extra year of control if Mountcastle’s debut is delayed by a month or two next season.

    • CalsPals

      November 11, 2019 at 5:38 pm

      It has been said adnausem regarding his control by the team, it still sucks, put your best players on the field…period…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 11, 2019 at 7:47 pm

        Couldn’t agree with you more. Put you best team on the field.

    • ClayDal

      November 11, 2019 at 5:54 pm

      The Orioles have never said that they are holding back anybody because of service time-the media and fans have said that. Do teams do it-yes all teams try to maximize the time they get to keep their players. Leaving Mountcastle in Norfolk for a month to (wink, wink) work on defense and plate discipline keeps him here till 2026, as opposed to 2025. Much prefer having him for a full year in 2026, than 3 weeks in 2020. As far as the budget, all teams have budgets. Some are more than others. When the Orioles start to compete, expect the budget to rise. No need to spend 20 million or so on free agents to win 65 games next year

    • CalsPals

      November 11, 2019 at 6:57 pm

      Meant here, never said the O’s said it, really don’t care who’s saying it, put your best team on the field, stop the stupid crap games, seriously, he deserved to be up here on September….go O’s…

  5. garyintheloo

    November 11, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Other than the main blog sites I have been weaning myself off of the Os starting with the 2017 season. The last three years have been like watching an expansion team. Hire some major leaguers and skip the retreads. I am not looking for 70 wins but the pitching and defense need to improve now!

  6. willmiranda

    November 11, 2019 at 10:45 am

    Question: Why do we want an extra year of Mountcastle if he’s not a competent major leaguer?
    There seems an inconsistency here.
    Point: Naturally Elias doesn’t want a timeline; he wants job security, not accountability goals.
    The second full season of rebuilding should have fewer than 100 losses; this team seems
    desensitized about how awful their number of losses is, calling it “part of the process.”

    • Fareastern89

      November 11, 2019 at 10:53 am

      No one said he’s not a competent major leaguer. Perhaps he is — we should find out this season. But he might be a better major leaguer after a bit more experience at Norfolk. It seems inconsistent to say he is a major leaguer and then give up an extra year of team control.

      • willmiranda

        November 11, 2019 at 2:34 pm

        Thanks for the response, Far. My thought is that if he is going to be merely competent, the extra year is not very important. I can see the year being valuable for a 21-year-old star in the making, one that we might not be able to retain in free agency, e.g., Machado. The real problem is that the team doesn’t seem to know what to do with Mountcastle in Norfolk or Baltimore. He can try to take walks in either place, and he can try to learn to field in either place. Unless they think he’ll be overwhelmed at the ML level, I don’t see the big deal, especially given that management is still not emphasizing performance in the big league club.

        • Fareastern89

          November 11, 2019 at 5:03 pm

          Good points. I’m guessing the front office would prefer not to take any chances by sacrificing future wins for the 2020 present. But I agree they seem to be not quite sure about what to do with him. By the way, Miranda was always one of my favorites growing up.

  7. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    November 11, 2019 at 10:59 am

    The Orioles need to sign pitching first and foremost. Pitchers like Jordan Lyles,Colin McHugh, and Gio Gonzalez are the type of players that imo would improve the team. They would be affordable and are better options than the current pitchers at Norfolk.

    • Camden Brooks

      November 11, 2019 at 3:40 pm

      Agreed.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 11, 2019 at 7:52 pm

        And 5 years ago the pitchers that could help were named Jimenez, Gallardo & Miley. Careful what you’re asking for. Signing mid-level pitching for the cozy confines of OPACY historically hasn’t worked.

    • Grand Strand Bird Fan

      November 12, 2019 at 11:29 am

      Right now we have mediocre AAA pitchers. They can’t and won’t sign high level pitching because they are rebuilding. The pitchers I noted are mod level for sure but are better than we have. So your solution is What?

  8. TxBirdFan

    November 11, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Here’s my question Rich, aside from managing to a budget and filling up the low minors with new players, does Elias have an actual documented plan for reconnecting with O’s fans and growing the base! So far everything is going in the opposite direction – jettisoning fan favorites, killing Famfest, losing 100 games each year and having the Nats win the WS. If Elias doesn’t have a concrete plan then please tell him he needs one, and fast. Saying he wants to keep Mancini is not a plan so that’s a non starter. What’s his timeline for getting over .500 and how is he connecting the fans to that?

    • Hallbe62

      November 11, 2019 at 3:25 pm

      Excellent questions !

  9. NormOs

    November 11, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    So the O’s are out of the running for any of the top 50 free agents? That’s incredible! My question is: How do you rebuild by signing everyone else’s trash (waiver wire, rule 5, minor league FA’s). Villier is either their best or 2nd best hitter so ,of course, they’re going to trade him for some more useless crap. Rebuild, IMHO, doesn’t mean “sign and pray”. And it doesn’t mean, do a rebuild WITHOUT SPENDING MONEY. 2nd question: When does this so called rebuild start? All I can see another seasons+ of 110 to 115 losses. Seems to me, you really need, at least, a few (a couple, one or two) REAL major league players/ pitchers to start. Would you agree? (probably not)

    • Hallbe62

      November 11, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      I would definitely agree !

    • Camden Brooks

      November 11, 2019 at 3:48 pm

      I hope they keep Villar. While he has some faults, we will certainly win more games with him than without, and he fills an infield void. I do however think fans need to remain patient with the rebuild. It would not make sense to spend money on top tier FA’s now, before we are ready to compete. Two years from right now I’m hoping we’ll have a solid corps of homegrown talent in Baltimore, and THEN we need to spend some $$ on FA talent to fill in the gaps.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 11, 2019 at 7:53 pm

      And the tank goes on.

  10. WorldlyView

    November 11, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    How can the Orioles “quickly” rebuild while under tight budget constraints which are unlikely to ease given the prospects for steady or declining attendance? Did the Astros construct their highly successful rebuild while under low budget ceilings? Let me answer that: NO. In recent years, they signed as free agents, or traded for, guys like Verlander, Greinke, Altuve, Reddick, Gurrial, and Brantley. The combined salaries of these six guys in 2020 will be about $134 million (per Spotrac.com). And that does not include G. Cole, who may or may not be re-signed for an Astronomical sum. The Orioles 2019 payroll (next year’s total is too unclear for comparison purposes) was about $80 million (per baseball-reference.com). To play with the numbers: subtract Davis’s salary ($20 million-plus) from that, and you get $60 million for the team, a sum just a little more than ONE-FOURTH of the Astros’ projected total payroll in 2020 of about $225 million (a total which will jump by more than $30 million if they re-sign Cole). Os’ fans may not get a winning team for six or seven years–when those two Dominican kids we got from the Bosox might have breakout seasons. A question for Rich: was the combination of today’s low-keyed posting of a story suggesting really hard times ahead and the solicitation of questions a shrewd ploy to elicit harsh commentary from your more outspoken commentators?

    • ClayDal

      November 11, 2019 at 6:52 pm

      You mentioned Spotrac, but left out a few details. In 2012, the first year of Luhnow/Elias the Astros payroll was 54 million-30th in all baseball. The next year down to 35 million. When they made the playoffs for the first time in 2015, it was 81 million-25th out of 30 teams. Their World Series winning team of 2017 had a payroll of 138 million-17th in all baseball. Coming in with the 8th highest payroll that year at 175 million was-the Baltimore Orioles. The Astros didn’t start spending serious money until AFTER they got good. Look for the Orioles to do the same

      • WorldlyView

        November 11, 2019 at 7:50 pm

        Interesting point. The “adjusted” salary was indeed $138 million. But the “total” salary listed on the website was $193 million. I wonder what the difference is between these two figures and which is the better measure of a commitment to a quick rebuilding.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 11, 2019 at 7:23 pm

      No, Professor Cohen, I had first asked for questions on Twitter and Facebook last Friday before I knew what I would write about today.

    • CalsPals

      November 11, 2019 at 9:01 pm

      Altuve wasn’t the typical free agent, signed in 2007 as an amateur FA, I’m guessing not for much mulla…go O’s…

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