LAS VEGAS - In sizing up the hire of new Orioles general manager Mike Elias, the point has been made that he brings a background of both scouting and analytics to the team.
And while analytics will be huge moving forward for the Orioles, Elias knows about the old-fashioned eye test. He used to be the one doing the looking.
He began what has been so far a 12-year baseball career in 2007 as an amateur scout for the St. Louis Cardinals. Elias spent five seasons with Jeff Luhnow in St. Louis. The last two years, he was the club’s manager of amateur scouting. During his time with the Cardinals, he signed and scouted many major league players and contributed to the development of the scouting department and draft process.
“First of all, I’m very proud of my start as a scout,” Elias told me yesterday during a one-on-one interview. “It’s really one of the best ways to cut your teeth in this business. Because you are on your own, you’re meeting a lot of people, you’re seeing so much baseball and making a lot of connections. Later, after you draft players, you get a chance to negotiate with agents one on one. And for me to have had that experience right out of the gates in an organization as rich in scouting tradition as the St. Louis Cardinals are was terrific. And I look back on it with such fondness.”
In a Major League Baseball world where the best organizations seem to have a strong blend of old-school scouting and new-school analytics, Elias brings plenty of experience on both sides to the Orioles.
Talking Manny and Bryce: When I interviewed Harold Reynolds of MLB Network on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, I asked him if both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper will break the record dollar amount for a baseball contract this winter.
The largest contract ever was signed by Giancarlo Stanton, then of the Miami Marlins. It was a 13-year deal worth $325 million signed in November 2014.
Will Manny and Bryce top that $325 million mark?
“I pause a bit with Manny Machado,” Reynolds said. “Before the postseason and the antics with stepping on guys and all the things that were exposed on national TV. Before the postseason I would have said he’s easily past that. We’ve watched him enough. The talent is there and he’s only 26. But I think he’s really hurt his market as far as a big number. It’s going to cost him. Somebody is going to pay him. He’s going to get paid handsomely regardless, but I think it’s going to hurt.
“I hesitate saying Manny won’t (break $325 million). All it takes is one person. And he’s on a tour right now, sitting with four different teams coming up, I guess, that want to meet him and get to know him. It’s in his court to win them over.
“Bryce Harper on the other hand, I think he’s primed,” Reynolds continued. “The money for Bryce Harper went up because of the Home Run Derby. You saw how marketable he is. That’s the difference. This isn’t about putting up the numbers. We know he can hit and he can play. But he is a TV magnet. If I’m going to pay that money, you’ve got to have that attraction.
“You put the headband on in the All-Star game, and the arm sleeve. I go home and next thing you know, my kids want headbands and arm sleeves. And all their friends the next week, that is all they wanted to buy,” Reynolds added. “So Bryce Harper has a connection and he’s a gate attraction. That is all part of this whole package when you pay that kind of money.”
No skipper yet: Elias denied yesterday that the Orioles have hired Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde as their new manager. He said he has not yet made an offer and reports about Hyde coming to Baltimore were premature.
I can say this. You didn’t have to stroll very far last night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino to run into someone working in baseball who knows Hyde and said he would be a great addition. He’s a sharp guy and a great guy, we heard from several people.
If it is eventually Hyde getting the job, the Orioles would get the 45-year-old, who was the Cubs’ bench coach in 2014 and 2018. Before that, he was their minor league field coordinator in 2012. In between, he was the Cubs’ first base coach from 2015-17. Before joining the Cubs, he was with the Marlins from 2003-2011. From June 23, 2010 through the end of 2011 he was the Marlins’ bench coach.
Hyde managed in the Marlins farm system between 2005 and 2009, going 351-342 (.506). Earlier this offseason Hyde was in the mix for managerial openings with the Blue Jays, Twins and Angels.
Yesterday Elias talked about the general manager-manager relationship he hopes to have when the new guy is officially in place.
“The stream of communication now between the front office and the manager’s office is constant,” he said. “I view this position as not just a manager, but also an extension of our front office. It’s somebody who is involved in all manner of decisions in baseball operations and things that are going on in the minor leagues, trade talks, free agent talks. Really, the scope of the job is just enormous.”