Peter Schmuck: Mike Elias is getting on my nerves - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Peter Schmuck

Peter Schmuck: Mike Elias is getting on my nerves

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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Used to be, one of the best things about being a sports columnist in Baltimore was getting to predict how whatever the Orioles did during the offseason was going to go wrong and then patting yourself on the back and reminding everyone when you turned out to be right.

Mike Elias is ruining everything.

Last winter, I thought I had him. He said he was going to spend some money to upgrade the club after the surprising 2022 season and then delivered several seemingly uninspiring acquisitions. I was happy to give him the benefit of the doubt after the O’s won 83 games in his fourth season as executive vice president and general manager, but I certainly wasn’t impressed.

Then veteran pitcher Kyle Gibson arrived to both mentor and stabilize the starting rotation and won 15 games. Non-roster spring invitee Ryan O’Hearn, who was acquired from the Royals and didn’t make the Opening Day roster, might have been the league’s Comeback Player of the Year if not for White Sox pitcher Liam Hendriks’ inspiring return to the mound after conquering Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

If that wasn’t enough to make me question my well-honed professional cynicism, free-agent second baseman Adam Frazier showed up and delivered solid defense and the best run-production numbers of his eight-year career. Elias also acquired veteran catcher James McCann, who gave the club a very solid backup for Adley Rutschman.

There are some other examples, but you get the idea.

The Orioles won 101 games and Elias continues to look like a genius, which puts me in a tough position as we all wait to see whether he can find another solid starting pitcher to augment that slightly older rotation.

The free-agent market has developed very slowly this winter, but I recently found myself in the strange position of trying to boost the morale of one of my colleagues, who I will not identify except to say that if his last name was translated from the original Russian, he would be known as Rich Forest.

“I don’t know why he didn’t just keep Kyle Gibson,’’ he said the other day, and I had to remind him that people were saying the same thing about Jordan Lyles last year.

Lyles, of course, was a very positive influence on the then even-younger O’s rotation before leaving last winter to join the Royals and become the losingest starting pitcher in all of baseball (6-17).

I don’t know how Elias and his analytics nerds knew that was going to happen, but let’s just say I’m not rushing to Maryland Live to bet that Gibson will be in the running for the Cy Young Award this coming season.

Somehow, these guys figured out that Félix Bautista, who was pitching at Single-A Aberdeen at the start of the 2021 season, was capable of replacing traded closer Jorgé Lopez in August of 2022 and becoming the most dominant closer in the game before his elbow gave out last August.

Of course, the Lopez trade also brought the Orioles reliever Yennier Cano, who was unhittable for the first half of this past season and joined Bautista on the American League All-Star team.

So, yes, I was a bit skeptical when the O’s signed 35-year-old Craig Kimbrel to fill in for Bautista on the heels of an ugly performance with the Phillies in the NLCS and a 2023 regular season in which he converted 23 of 28 save opportunities and set a career high with 10 home runs allowed — eight of them in the ninth inning.

And, sure, I still don’t know what the Orioles see in 26-year-old right-hander Jonathan Heasley, whom they acquired from the Royals for minor league prospect Cesar Espinal and who has struggled as both a starter and reliever in parts of three major league seasons.

But I’ve reached the point where I’m not going to be surprised if Kimbrel saves 40 games and Heasley ends up having success in the starting rotation at some point in the season … unless Elias deals for another journeyman starter who can win 15 games while flirting with a 5-plus ERA.

Elias is one of those guys who always seem to know something you don’t, which would be really irritating if it weren’t true.

RAVENS LINKS FROM BALTIMORESPORTS.COM

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