BALTIMORE (AP) - New Orioles general manager Mike Elias spoke excitedly Monday about rebuilding the worst team in the majors by drafting wisely, stocking the farm system and delving deep into the International market.
After finishing 47-115 this year, the Orioles essentially will start from scratch under the 35-year-old Elias and a yet-to-be named replacement for manager Buck Showalter, who was fired after 8½ seasons.
Sitting between John Angelos and Lou Angelos - Baltimore’s top officials and sons of owner Peter Angelos - Elias warned at his introductory news conference there are no shortcuts to the reboot. But the former Houston Astros assistant GM added, “We’re going to do this as quickly as we can.”
Elias wore a gray suit and an orange tie. His fashion choice was entirely appropriate because orange is the prominent color of both the Orioles and Astros, and his success in Houston is why he got the job.
“There is exciting potential here,” Lou Angelos said. “Mike’s deep background in scouting really made quite a difference in the discussions that we had. His success with the Astros, hearing about it in detail, he’s been through this.”
The Orioles shifted into rebuild mode in July under former Dan Duquette, the executive vice president of baseball operations who traded away many of the team’s stars - most notably Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman - for 15 prospects and International bonus pool money in moves that cut payroll from $151 million to $136 million.
Elias figures that saved him the trouble of dealing veterans himself.
“Those were the right moves. The team had left a period of competitiveness,” Elias said. “It was clear it was time to bring in new, younger talent into the organization. We’re going to build off of that work.”
Still, Baltimore’s farm system is ranked in the bottom third by Baseball America.
Elias arrived in Houston in 2012, when the Astros were in the midst of three straight 100-loss seasons. They won 70 games in 2014, reached the playoffs in 2015 and won the World Series in 2017. Houston won 100 games this year for a second consecutive season before falling to Boston in the ALCS.
“We’re going to do everything in our power to move things in the right direction,” Elias said. “We’re not going to be perfect with our decision making. Nobody is. But we’re going to add talent in every direction until the wins pile up.”
Lou Angelos noted: “This is a time for fans to invest along with us in the process.”
Getting a manager is one of the first steps in the plan.
“The process and the background work have already begun,” Elias said. “I have a lot of contacts around the game and have already started tapping into those networks. But this is an important hire, just like this was an important hire for (the Orioles), and it’s not something you rush. We want to get the right person for this time.”
Elias got the job by impressing the Angelos brothers with his enthusiasm, knowledge of analytics and his blueprint to get the Orioles closer toward earning their first World Series title since 1983.
“We all came into the conversations with very specific plans and ideas and visions in mind for what this should look like and how we should go about these things,” Elias said. “We were on exactly the same page with what the approach should be.”
It didn’t hurt that Elias was graduated from Yale, where he went 9-10 with a 5.15 ERA in 22 starts and 22 relief appearances as a pitcher from 2002-05..
“Well, he went to Yale, and my brother went to Hopkins and I went to Duke, so we had Ivy League envy,” John Angelos said with a grin. “Really though, Mike made a fantastic impression, not just initially but all throughout the process. He was incredibly prepared, thoughtful.”
Elias grew up in Northern Virginia and spent plenty of time at Camden Yards and visiting Baltimore. Now he feels right at home as part of the team.
“I already have a lot of positive memories and positive impressions of this city,” he said. “I already know this city, I already love his city. I also got a chance to be at Camden Yards at a time when the stadium was filled to the brim and the city was supporting a championship caliber team. So I know there’s no place better in baseball when that is the case.”
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