Elias' first two years as Orioles' general manager have been eventful - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Elias’ first two years as Orioles’ general manager have been eventful

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Mike Elias’ first two years as the Orioles’ top baseball decision-maker have been eventful. His choice of Brandon Hyde as the team’s new manager was reported on MLB Network as writers sat in his suite during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

At the time, Elias said the speculation was premature. By the end of the week, Hyde was hired.

His makeover of the organization has been radical, although a number of front office officials, including Kevin Buck (director of baseball administration), Brad Ciolek (supervisor of domestic scouting pperations), Kent Qualls (director of minor league operations) and Mike Snyder (director of pro scouting), were already in the organization.

Elias’ top assistant, Sig Mejdal, has radically increased the team’s analytics department.

New department heads, Matt Blood (director of player development) and Koby Perez (international scouting), joined Mejdal.

It’s on the field where the changes are most evident. Hyde did not have familiarity with the Orioles or the American League. Only one of the coaches on staff, assistant hitting coach José Hernandez, was in the organization before Elias’ arrival.

By the time Elias signed on, the minor league staff for 2019 was nearly set. In the late summer of 2019, he trimmed the scouting staff and terminated longtime minor league personnel, including former Orioles Scott McGregor and B.J. Surhoff.

With the minor leagues still uncertain for 2021, staff positions haven’t been announced, but Elias has retained Norfolk manager Gary Kendall, who has been with the organization for two decades, outlasting six Oriole skippers.

The team’s winning percentage has slowly improved. Elias inherited a team with a .290 percentage (47-115) and has seen it tick up to .333 (54-108) in 2019 and .417 (25-35) in 2020.

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“This is a process,” Elias said at his first press conference on November 19, 2018. “It’s a process that doesn’t have shortcuts, but it’s a process that works, and it’s a process that is worth it … It’s a process that I’ve been a big part of before and the fact that I have done this before, really twice across two different organizations [St. Louis and Houston], gives me a special level of confidence that we’re going to do it again and have the same type of success here in Baltimore.”

Elias’ goal hasn’t changed.

“The plan is simple,” Elias said then. “We’re going to build an elite talent pipeline that’s going to extend from the lowest realm of our minor league ladder … all the way up to Triple-A and up to the major league roster in Baltimore.”

Elias’ first draft pick, catcher Adley Rutschman, was applauded, but because of the pandemic that shortened the season to 60 games and eliminated minor league play in 2020, it’s hard to tell when he’ll be ready for the majors.

The Orioles’ minor league system is ranked eighth by MLB Pipeline, and 14 of the team’s top 30 prospects were acquired by Elias.

One of the most symbolically significant could be left-handed pitcher Luis Ortiz, who was part of the team’s first large-scale international draft class in July 2019. For years, the Orioles avoided the international market. Under Perez, they’re aiming to become a major player in Latin America.

Of the 35 players on the 40-man roster, 20 were in the organization before Elias’ arrival and 15 were acquired since then.

Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, right-handed pitcher Michael Baumann and left-hander Zac Lowther, who appear as if they’ll be added to 40-man roster by Friday’s deadline, were in the organization before Elias was hired.

“There are players, a lot of players on this team right now and in this organization, who are going to be a part of the next playoff team in Baltimore,” Elias said.

Chris Holt, who was hired by Elias, will be the team’s pitching coach in 2021 and is still the director of pitching, which will enable him to maintain a hand in minor league pitching development.

DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, who were the team’s first-round draft picks in 2017 and 2018, are the team’s top pitching prospects.

“A lot of good players and more coming,” Elias said. “There are some future stars in the system, some really good pitchers. There’s more than enough to work with. Part of the attraction of this job to me is that I know there’s already players here that we’re going to be able to lean on over the next few years and watch grow.”

At his introductory press conference, Elias was asked about Chris Davis, who still had four years and $112 million remaining on his contract.

“This lineup of this team is at its best with a productive Chris Davis, a productive Chris Davis in the middle of the lineup,” Elias said. “I want to see that happen. He had a frustrating campaign this year. I think the chances are good of him bouncing back and improving upon that.” Davis’ frustrations have gotten worse and his future is uncertain.

John and Louis Angelos introduced Elias, but it’s been Elias who has spoken for the team. Most recently, Elias sent an email to fans affirming the team’s commitment to Baltimore.

“While we know this year has brought about a great deal of uncertainty, please rest assured that there is nothing uncertain about the future of your Orioles in Baltimore, or of the organizational commitment of our Chairman and CEO, the partnership group, the Senior Leadership Team, our entire professional staff, and our 26-man team to stay the course for decades to come as we succeed on and off the field in leading the way for our Baltimore community,” Elias wrote.

In 2018, Elias was excited about the team’s chances. Two years later, it’s still too early to assess his effectiveness.

“I think very uniquely this organization has in its history, and its DNA, having at one time being considered as the smartest, the most forward thinking, most progressive thinking organization in baseball,” Elias said. “We’re here to restore that reputation.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. Orial

    November 18, 2020 at 7:58 am

    His goals of building a strong talent pipeline,updating with analytics,going International,and in general using brain/theory decision making over gut decision making have pretty much all fallen into place though incomplete.. For that I’ll give him a B. His being aloof and somewhat shady seem to be a part of a Baltimore historical playbook(at least in the Angelos era) so for that I’ll give him a C+. Some old-school curmudgeons will disagree but I like the direction–overall a solid B. At least we’re not stuck in the mud anymore. One thing–attendence-wise the O’s got a pass in 2020(nobody had crowds) but I still wonder how patient this fan base will be if the “rebuild” goes on past its expiration date. That is where murmurings of pressure have to hopefully be felt by Mr. Elias.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 18, 2020 at 8:44 am

      Orial, analyzing the fan base’s mood by attendance is something that can’t be gauged in 2021. So many larger factors that are out of the Orioles’ and MLB’s control have to be considered.

      • Bancells Moustache

        November 18, 2020 at 1:36 pm

        Orial, they haven’t been showing up since 2016.

    • WorldlyView

      November 18, 2020 at 3:21 pm

      Whether or not the ‘rebuild’ goes beyond its ‘expiration date’ is a huge question. Thoughts on about when that turning point happens? Maybe not until the year when free agent Rutschman signs for mega-bucks with another team.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 18, 2020 at 8:59 am

    To say that the Orioles record has progressively gotten better during his time here is simply horse-pucky and in no way can be considered a barometer of his success to this point. Look at the circumstances.

    Not judging …. just saying.

  3. willmiranda

    November 18, 2020 at 10:06 am

    A process is not a goal A goal is a goal, like a world championship. Feeling good about a process means we’re still on the gut level and not on the brain level, as in cause-and-effect thinking. The process is the cause and the goal is the effect. If the effect does not result, the goal is not reached, no matter how lovely the process.

  4. TxBirdFan

    November 18, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Can’t argue with the Y/Y improvement, but we had no where to go but up so not a significant accomplishment. The O’s got a break (sort of) when fans were not allowed in 2020 since we couldn’t see the fan base dwindling compared to other teams. And every year we hear about how great the minor league prospects are – every team sells that. The proof will be how they perform at the ML level. They’ll need to perform quickly before their salaries get too large for Baltimore. Hope is not a strategy but thats what I’m banking on.

  5. Birdman

    November 18, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Given the reality that Elias inherited a team with one of the worst records in MLB history, as well as diminishing attendance and financial resources, I would give Elias a high grade (B+) so far. My biggest concern is whether ownership will be willing, and able, to provide Elias with necessary financial resources going forward, and some of the recent signs in that regard are not encouraging,

  6. Bancells Moustache

    November 18, 2020 at 11:10 am

    Not to be a stick in the mud, but they “improved” from one of the worst teams in baseball history to a .417 wining percentage in a shortened year, a year which I really believe they were saved by the bell. A full 162 and that team was headed towards another 100 losses. They just missed .500 in August and sucked in September. That’s hardly what I’d call exciting. I suppose the farm system is improving, but Keith Law don’t pick the champion every year, the boys on the field do that. Elias brilliant drafting has consisted of picking the consensus best player at 1/1, a move any commenter on the site would have made, and going under slot at 1/2 so he could sign a High School pitcher who promptly headed off to Tommy John surgery. Sorry Mike, the Ivy League pedigree would be impressive if I was hiring an attorney, but I’m not. You’re gonna have to do more than that.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 18, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      Ditto BanMo. Not wishing ill or anything, but I’m wondering if Carter Baumler is going to be Elias’ Dylan Bundy?

      Thinking about it, maybe I should be happy if he got that far?

      Alas … we still have a hole at 3rd.

    • CalsPals

      November 18, 2020 at 2:12 pm

      Coulda drafting a 3B, now the Bluejays have more than what they need, especially if MLB is correct they may be interested in Lindor…go O’s…

  7. CalsPals

    November 18, 2020 at 11:54 am

    Is it just me or does Elias seem to be much more gray since joining the O’s…hmmm…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 18, 2020 at 12:30 pm

      I agree … I thought he was a blonde the day they hired him?

  8. Bhoffman1

    November 18, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    I think the chances are good of him bouncing back and improving. That one quote ruined all the credibility of his statement

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 18, 2020 at 12:34 pm

      Bruce, as I wrote, all these quotes were from two years ago—not now.

  9. Bhoffman1

    November 18, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    I misunderstood that Elias was being quoted when he first took over about Davis I apologize. I personally think he has done a remarkable job and hasn’t wasted a penny of the Angelos money

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 18, 2020 at 8:25 pm

      He certainly hasn’t wasted a penny. I’d like to see him try …

  10. dlgruber1

    November 18, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    I might be naive but I honestly don’t believe Elias would’ve taken the job without some assurances that when needed the money will be there to retain top talent and pick up a key missing piece or two when that time comes. I know right now it seems like they’re throwing nickels around like they’re manhole covers but I believe if a player like RM or AR become superstars they’ll do all they can to keep them in Baltimore. I just hope it gets to the point where we find out if that’s true or not.

  11. Phil770

    November 19, 2020 at 8:32 am

    Rich, thanks for another insightful article. I am not as down on Elias, or the owners, as most on this site. I will say that analytics have taken much of the joy out of being a fan. Btw, the Dodgers, the gold standard in BBC these days, reduced their staff for financial reasons. Go figure.

  12. OriolesNumber1Fan

    November 19, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    2017 – Wins 75. Losses 87. Winning pct. .463 and LAST PLACE. The GM – Dan Duquette.

    2018 – Wins 47. Losses 115. Winning pct. .290 and again LAST PLACE AND THE WORSTE RECORD IN BASEBALL AND WORSTE RECORD IN ORIOLES HISTORY. And 61 games out of first place! The team trending downward the last 3 years now per winning pct. Again the GM – Dan Duquette.

    So, Elias inherits this team with a .290 winning pct. (47-115) which was the worste record all time for the Orioles and HE is accused of tanking??? Are you kidding me. 61 games out of first place and he’s tanking??? Total BS!

    First year with Elias
    2019 – Wins 54. Losses 108. Winning pct. .333 an increase to winning pct. Down to 49 games out of first place.

    Second year with Elias
    2020 – Wins 25 Losses 35. Winning pct. .417. Down to 15 games out of first place. Definitely trending in the right direction!

    So the Orioles go from 61 games out of first place down to 15 and trending upward and he’s still accused of tanking??? Are you kidding me! Anyone that can’t see that the team is now trending upward with Mike Elias is either blind or stupid or both. Case closed! I give him a A – for the turnaround!!! Hopefully in 2 years they’ll be World Champs or at least a playoff team still trending upward.

    • dlgruber1

      November 19, 2020 at 8:39 pm

      I love your optimism but don’t put any money on your 2 year prediction. It’ll be 2 years until O’s fans see Rutschman, Rodriguez, Henderson, Kherstsd and who knows who else. I will say this, I definitely believe they’re trending in the right direction but I’m hoping to see a playoff contending team in 3-4 years. I just believe the AL East is too good to think they’ll be contending in 2 years but I sure would love to be proved wrong.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 20, 2020 at 5:11 pm

      You’re an idiot. Search this page for the word “tank” … you’re the only person that used it. Try actually reading what others write before calling everyone blind or stupid. Makes you look stupid.

    • CalsPals

      November 20, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      Worste, is that a type of bratwurst?…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 20, 2020 at 8:00 pm

        Put a little mustard on that worste.

    • WorldlyView

      November 20, 2020 at 7:35 pm

      #1, As you have decreed, I must be blind and/or stupid. I would NOT have thought it logical to favorably compare being 15 games out of first place in a SHORTENED season to games back in a 162 game season.

      Furthermore, I am so warped that I would dismiss your thought that the O’s could be championship caliber within two years. Admittedly, I say this with the knowledge that just a few minutes ago, we DFA’d Nunez. The rebuild will not be accelerated.

  13. OriolesNumber1Fan

    November 19, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    Yeah, it wasn’t so much of a prediction but just my love for the Orioles but I did say “Hopefully”, so my die hard optimistic attitude wouldn’t show through.

    Realistically, with the pandemic not allowing the Orioles to draw fans for season ticket sales, concessions and parking, it’s going to be hard for the Orioles to make any splashy free agent signings! But I do remain optimistic that this pandemic won’t remain 4 ever so hopefully (there’s that word again)….

    • dlgruber1

      November 20, 2020 at 1:40 am

      I just wanna be able to go to games again. I’ve only missed 6 home openers since 1979 including last year (which might’ve been a good thing since I had 4 tix and 2 of them were for my Yankees fan friends). Even tho they’ve been terrible the past 4 seasons there’s just something special about the Opening Day game. I also really miss going to Fanfest but I guess that’s gone and never to return again. I gotta say baseball has done a lot of things to test my loyalty but alas, I still love the game and I guess I always will.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 20, 2020 at 5:12 pm

      Once again … your 6th grade spelling and grammer are showing through again … “die-hard” is a hyphenated word. Not 2 words.

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