The search for a new Orioles manager remains the top priority for executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. No other task at the moment supersedes it. And while Elias is hesitant to offer too many specifics, he spoke tonight of progress made through the narrowing of his list.
Elias, a call-in guest to the “Orioles Hot Stove” radio show on 105.7 The Fan, said the staff has sifted through an impressive number of possibilities. He noted the input from assistant Sig Mejdal and others, including holdovers from the previous regime.
“It’s going well,” Elias said. “We’ve done a ton of background work. Sig and myself and the people in the front office have tapped into our Rolodexes around the game and done a lot of background research on dozens of candidates, really.
“One of the benefits, I think, that I’ve learned in being the last team to pick a manager is you’re able to talk to your friends around the game and they’ve already got their manager, they’ve been through search, so they don’t need to hide their notes.
“We’ve been able to have very open conversations on who the best candidates are and who would be a great fit for us and for the Orioles. We’ve got a great list of names. I have pared it down quite a bit. We’ll see what happens in terms of process and timing, but I feel like we are well past phase one of this search.”
Other business at hand includes the hiring of various analysts, scouts and software developers and finding a Triple-A manager. The Orioles manager will have tremendous input in the hiring of Ron Johnson’s replacement with the Tides, which could come from within or outside the organization.
Elias spoke of the “collaborative effort” in piecing together the Orioles coaching staff, again indicating that the manager will provide the loudest voice.
“Step one is getting the leader in place, getting the manager in place, so that’s first and foremost really on my agenda right now and I’m working on that very deeply as we speak,” Elias said. “The way that I’ve seen this work best is when it is a collaborative effort to build out the rest of the staff.
“I think everyone involved - upper level front office, the manager - have ideas, have contacts and get together and put together some names that might be fits for every position. But really, in my view, the spots on the major league staff belong to the manager, rightly.
“Sometimes in today’s game, with people coming and going and so much competition for coaching talent, it’s really an area of competition from team to team right now. There are times when you have to give somebody a spot or promise somebody a spot, but the ideal way to handle it is to collaborate. But I will yield to the new manager’s opinion on these spots as much as possible.”
Part of the urgency in naming Buck Showalter’s successor is getting commitments from the desired coaches before they land other jobs.
“It is tough,” Elias said. “There are so many moving parts in the offseason personnel-wise in our industry. And it’s not just coaching. It’s scouting and front office executives, where different teams are operating on different timelines. People have to make decisions on a bird in hand possibly before another team has even started the process, and it’s just a case by case navigation that goes on.
“Certainly, coming in late provides some challenges, but I think there are also some positives to it because you know that maybe once your staff is settled, it’s going to be settled at that point. So, I do try to be sensitive to the needs of other staffs and teams around the league. It’s part of the courtesy we all try to afford one another because it’s difficult to navigate staffing in the offseason. And that’s another reason why we’re trying to move on this as quickly and thoroughly as possible.”
Asked how many scouts he’s seeking to hire for various departments, Elias said he doesn’t have “a target number in mind.”
“We are assessing areas of need right now,” he said. “We need a manager first and foremost. We need some key positions on the analytics and software development side and we are hitting those glaring needs as quickly as possible. We will access the capabilities in the other departments over not only the near team but the long term and build those out to the appropriate levels and the appropriate capacities as it goes.
“With the calendar being what it is, there are certain things that are on the forefront of our priority list and we’re addressing those first.”
Elias didn’t anticipate reaching agreements on contracts tonight with any of his five arbitration-eligible players and couldn’t offer assurances that deals will be struck by Friday night’s deadline.
“What deadlines tend to do in this industry is that not much happens until right before the deadline, so you don’t get a lot of indications,” he said. “I think both sides kind of learn to wait until usually the day of. I know our staff is working on in that and have had preliminary conversations, but we’ll have to see. It’s tough to call that stuff. Even 24 hours out, it’s too soon.”
Elias also confirmed that the Orioles will make a selection in the Rule 5 draft, a foregone conclusion given the organization’s history and the possession of the first pick.