Mike Elias recently celebrated his fourth anniversary as Orioles executive vice president/general manager. Elias has largely remade the franchise after inheriting a team that lost a team-record 115 games in 2018. The Orioles suffered through the 2019 and 2021 seasons with a combined 218 losses while he invested in the farm system, the international market and analytics. In 2022, the team won 31 more games than it did in 2021.
Let’s look at what Elias inherited and where the franchise is headed:
Off-field personnel: Two of Elias’ key lieutenants, Sig Mejdal, vice president and assistant general manager, analytics, and Eve Rosenbaum, assistant general manager, were with him in Houston, though Rosenbaum didn’t join the Orioles until a year after Elias and was promoted to her present position in June.
Elias hired Koby Perez as senior director of international scouting shortly after his arrival, and Matt Blood as director of player development in September 2019. Brendan Fournie, their director of baseball strategy, came a year ago.
Elias did retain some key players from the Dan Duquette regime, though some have different titles and responsibilities: Brad Ciolek, supervisor of domestic scouting operations; Kent Qualls, director of minor league operations; Mike Snyder, director of pro scouting; Di Zou, director of baseball systems; and Maria Arellano, senior manager of international administration.
On-field personnel: There are few on-field coaches and managers remaining from when Elias arrived.
José Hernández, a longtime coach in the minor league system, has been with manager Brandon Hyde’s staff throughout Hyde’s tenure. He holds the title of major league coach.
The Orioles’ athletic trainers — Brian Ebel, Mark Shires and Patrick Wesley — were with the staff before Elias, and Chris Poole, the assistant to the head athletic trainer, was on staff, too.
The strength and conditioning team is new, and the number of staffers in the clubhouse and who travel with the team has increased.
Triple-A Norfolk manager Buck Britton and Double-A manager Kyle Moore were in the organization before Elias, but have earned promotions. The other minor league managers and coaching staff, with the exception of Norfolk fundamentals coach Ramón Sambo, are new.
Orioles 40-man roster: Of the 38 players on the 40-man roster, 15 were in the organization, but that turnover was to be expected.
Four of Elias’ 2019 draftees: Adley Rutschman (1st round), Gunnar Henderson (2nd round), Kyle Stowers (competitive balance round) and Joey Ortiz (4th) are on the roster.
While some think the selection of Rutschman as the first overall pick was obvious, there were others who would have selected Bobby Witt Jr., the high school shortstop that Kansas City chose second.
Choosing Henderson with the 42nd overall pick and convincing him to forego college and sign with the team was a masterstroke, and if Stowers or Ortiz become solid major leaguers, that draft might be considered the best in team history.
Minor league players: It’s too early to analyze the 2020-2022 drafts, but the Orioles’ minor league system has been rated No. 1 by MLB Pipeline.
Henderson, shortstop Jackson Holliday, the 2022 overall top pick; outfielder Colton Cowser, the fifth overall pick in 2021; and infielder Jordan Westburg, the second-round pick in 2020; are in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100. So are pitchers DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez, the top picks in 2017 and 2018.
Outfielders Heston Kjerstad, the second overall pick in 2020, and Dylan Beavers, the second-round choice in 2022, could join the Top 100 soon.
Trades: In his first four years, Elias concentrated on acquiring young players and moving veteran players, some of whom were nearing free agency or costly contracts through arbitration.
Among those traded were starters Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb and Tommy Milone, relievers Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Mychal Givens, Jorge López, Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser, infielders Freddy Galvis, José Iglesias and Jonathan Villar, and first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini.
Few of those players performed as well with their new organizations as with the Orioles, though Bundy went 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts with the Los Angeles Angels in the truncated 2020 season.
The Bundy deal might have been Elias’ best. He acquired right-handed starter Kyle Bradish, who showed promise in 2022. The other three pitchers who came along with Bradish haven’t done as well. Reliever Isaac Mattson pitched four games for the Orioles in 2021 and was released in July. Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek both had Tommy John surgery this year.
Infielders Tyler Nevin and Terrin Vavra both came from Colorado in the Givens deal.
Elias was so eager to dump the final year of Cobb’s four-year, $57 million contract after the right-hander went 7-22 with a 5.10 ERA in three injury-marred seasons with the Orioles that the team ate $10 million of the $15 million owed.
Infielder Jahmai Jones was the return for Cobb from the Angels, though he hit only .149 in 26 games for the Orioles in 2021 and was released in June.
The only other players on the 40-man roster acquired in those deals are right-handed reliever Yennier Cano, who came along from Minnesota in the López trade and Seth Johnson, acquired from Tampa Bay in the three-way deal that sent Mancini to Houston.
Johnson, who had Tommy John surgery shortly after the August 1st trade, was placed on the 40-man roster last week.
Two other pitchers acquired in August — Chayce McDermott from Tampa Bay in the Mancini deal and Cade Povich, also in the López trade — are ranked 13th and 14th in the top 30 prospects list.
Many of the players in these deals were young international players who are still teenagers and in the lower levels in the minor league system.
Waivers: Elias has excelled in waiver claims. López, Gold Glove third baseman Ramón Urías, shortstop Jorge Mateo and relievers Bryan Baker, Joey Krehbiel, Cionel Pérez and Austin Voth were fine pickups.
In the offseason, Elias has added reserve outfielders Daz Cameron and Jake Cave, but with the Orioles’ improved record in 2022, comes a lower claiming position in the waiver que.
International signings: The Orioles had almost no international scouting resources when Elias arrived, but that has changed. While most of the players signed are far from the big leagues, catcher Samuel Basallo (12), infielder César Prieto (18), shortstop Frederick Bencosme (25), shortstop Maikol Hernández (27), outfielder Braylin Tavera (28) and shortstop Leandro Arias (29) are all in the top 30 list.
Elias is getting accolades because of the Orioles’ 31-game improvement in 2022, but for him to build on the goodwill established this season, the team will have to take another step or two in 2023.