Mike Elias’ introduction this morning as Orioles executive vice president and general manager lasted 40 minutes and covered a wide range of topics. He also conducted individual interviews with television and radio outlets and met with the beat crew.
John and Louis Angelos flanked Elias in an informal conversational setting inside the home clubhouse at Camden Yards, an event that was catered with food and drinks available in the back.
There really are a lot of changes happening in the organization.
John Angelos, in a rare public appearance, spoke initially about Elias making “an amazing first impression.” He also stated, after first joking to the contrary, that the brothers will become more accessible to the media moving forward.
“We live here, we grew up here, we spent our whole lives here, we’re not going anywhere, so we’ll be available, yes,” he said.
It seemed an appropriate start today as the Orioles celebrated the hiring of Elias, 35, to run the baseball operations department.
Elias will have full autonomy, a point driven home in press releases and again during today’s introduction.
“We had a lot of very extensive conversations throughout this process and we sat down and we talked a ton of baseball and we all came into those conversations with very specific plans and ideas and visions in mind for what this should look like, how we should go about these things. And we were on exactly the same page with what the approach should be,” Elias said.
“For me, that is something that is necessary for them to want to hire me for this position, but also for me to want to jump on board.”
“Organizational management is about everybody playing their position, much like team sports, right?” said John Angelos. “The idea is ownership has a role to play and that’s a very discreet role. The obligation is to get them the best people in each discreet position, get the absolute best business operations head, get the absolute best business operations person and give them the resources. Let them do the job.”
A native of Northern Virginia, Elias spoke of growing up an Orioles fan and attending games at Camden Yards. He really knows how to win over a crowd.
“I already know the city,” he said, “and I already love the city.”
As for the task of crafting a total rebuild, Elias said the plan is simple but cannot be rushed. He wants to build “an elite talent pipeline” that reaches down to the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and extends to Triple-A and the major league roster. Plenty of hires are forthcoming in scouting, especially as he tries to build up the international side. And analytics will play a huge role.
I couldn’t pry a timeline out of Elias for completing the rebuild, not that I anticipated one.
“We’re going to work as fast and as smartly and as hard as possible,” he said. “We’re going to remain focused on the process. We’re going to continuously improve the talent base up and down the organization, whether that’s at the major league level or the minor league level, and we’ll see what happens.
“I have confidence that we can do this and we can do this in the right amount of time. And the analytics portion of it is something that’s not optional in today’s game. It’s a lot of advanced information. The trick is how you incorporate it into decision making and into baseball practices so that it’s not two different approaches going on, but it’s one approach that comes out of that. So there will be a lot of work and a lot of expertise in that area.”
Elias also doesn’t have a timetable for hiring a manager, but he’s put the wheels in motion.
“The process and the background work has already begun,” he said. “I have a lot of contacts around the game and I have certainly already started tapping into those networks, doing background work on candidates. But this is an important hire, just like this was an important hire for them, and it’s not something to rush for the sake of meeting artificial dates in the wintertime.
“We want to get the right person for our organization, for our front office, for us for this time. These are thorough processes when you’re talking about a job that big, so we are working on it, but I do not have specific timetable or a date at this time.”
What about the importance of a manager embracing analytics?
“I think everyone at an upper level in baseball is aware of and current with that topic,” Elias said. “This is not something that should come from an oblique angle and be separate from your baseball decision making or your baseball sensibility. This is something that all of the individuals, especially those in a decision-making position, need to incorporate in those decision. And there’s a lot of good candidates out there today and I would be very surprised if any of them were not current on that approach.”
Elias will cast a wide net in his managerial search and said he’d avoid coming in with a “cookie-cutter profile.” It’s unlikely that the dozen people who occupy most of his focus will fit into it. He wants leadership and the ability to deal with players, but also someone with strengths in player development and interfacing with a modern front office.
There are a lot of boxes to check.
“It’s always a long list,” he said later. “I’m not down to a short list. There’s a lot of really good names. There’s people who are currently on major league staffs, former managers that perhaps aren’t on a major league staff right now and also people in front offices, recently retired players. So it’s all walks of life. It’s a large list right now and I’m going to whittle that down deliberately.
“I don’t think (past experience) is a prerequisite, but obviously experience, especially good experience, is always attractive in any hiring process. But we’ll see. As I said, this is going to ultimately be a menu of people, so I’m not going to pigeonhole a job description at this point and then try to find somebody who fits that perfectly. We’re going to look at the best people available, we’re going to talk and find out who the best candidates are and we will choose from among them who’s the right fit for this team, this situation, this front office crew.”
Elias didn’t reveal the length of his contract and the Orioles aren’t volunteering it. He also wouldn’t bite when asked whether former Astros sabermetrics analyst Sig Mejdal could follow him to Baltimore.
“I think it’s pretty standard policy not to comment on the status of free agents, but we’re going to be looking for leadership and experience in this area and we will be bringing in outside talent to help with that,” Elias said. “There’s good people out there and I’m going after them as quick as possible.”
Elias indicated that he’s going to lean heavily on executives already in place while learning more about the roster and farm system, and with Tuesday’s deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players.
“I’m still getting acclimated and I’m still meeting people and I’ve talked to most, if not all, of the upper-level executives so far,” he said. “The conversations have been great. There’s good work being done, but these types of transitions always involve sort of a getting to know one another period and getting plugged in and I’m just at the very beginning of that process right now. But I’m looking forward to more of these conversations and it’s one of my many priorities over the next week or two.”
Asked specifically about vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson, Louis Angelos replied, “As Mike indicated, he’s spoken to all the high-level executives and we’ve had some discussions about all aspects of baseball operations in the lengthy meetings that we had. I think in this transition period, I believe Mike is going to be reliant on all of the individuals who have great knowledge and deep knowledge of our current players. So that extends across the board and Brady isn’t any different in that respect.
“We have to determine where people are going to make the best contribution, whether it’s player development or what have you. So we’re all excited and looking forward to that transition and collaborating as an organization.”
Elias made it clear that he doesn’t view the roster cupboard as bare.
“Lot of good players here,” he said. “There are more coming. As a scouting director, I’m familiar with a lot of the players in the minor league system. There are some future stars in the system and some really good pitchers. There is more than enough here to work with. That is part of the attraction of this job to me. I know there are already players here that we’re going to be able to lean on over the next few years and watch grow.”
The organization’s commitment to the international market and attempts to close the tremendous gap between itself and other teams was an obvious topic today.
“Having a robust acquisition function in the international space is key,” Elias said. “It’s not a matter of how many scouts but who they are, what they are doing and how they’re equipped. It does require a lot of coordination with your player development apparatus in the Dominican Republic. You use the complex very heavily as a scouting and recruiting tool. And it’s kind of neat how you can get your coaches involved in the upfront evaluation process. It’s something that’s a little harder to do in the states.
“We’re going to do it the way that we know how to do it well. We are going to be smart about. We’re going to have a great international operation as soon as possible and we’re going to be aggressive with the money that we have and do the best that we can.
“In this day and age in baseball, you need to tap into every available avenue for acquiring talent. There are so many stars coming out of the international market, particularly in Latin America, that it is essential to attack that market smartly and correctly.
“I can tell you that we will be making additions to our international operation over the near term. But I think part of the Angelos family’s attraction to me and this job is I was a sitting international scouting director. I have current knowledge of the players that are out there and have strong relationships with all of the agents in that market. I can hit the ground running. It’s a matter of picking up the phone at this point to get us going. We will be attacking that market in better ways as soon as possible.”
John Angelos said he doesn’t envision that the MASN dispute between the Orioles and Nationals, with the latest hearing held last week, will have “any impact on anything that we’re talking about today.” He also noted that Elias will determine the budget, another nod toward full autonomy.
“The buck stops with him and he’s here to do the job,” Angelos said.
“He puts together the budget and it is then fit into the overall financial view of the company, so as long as the company is in a good place, which it will be now and into the future, all the resources will be there to allow the general manager to effectuate any strategy he puts together. I think we’ll be in a good place there.”
Louis Angelos encouraged fans to “invest, if you will, along with us in the process and I think it’s an exciting potential here.”
“Mike’s deep background in scouting, as he mentioned and touched on earlier, not only in international scouting but amateur scouting, really made quite a differece in the discussions that he had. And obviously the Astros’ success. Hearing about that and learning about it in detail and the fact that he’s been through this, we talked a lot about it.
“This is an exciting time to look at the players who have come aboard and to learn about these processes. The talent that we’ll be looking for not only in the quantitative areas, but in scouting and player development, to start to revamp, really, all operations.
“I think it’s exciting for fans to see that evolve. I know it’s going to be for us and everybody in the organization.”
I closed out the introduction by passing along a common question among fans wondering how Chris Davis and the $110 million remaining on his contract fit into a rebuild. John Angelos dished it to Elias, saying it’s “really a Mike question.”
“To me, this lineup and this team is at its best with a productive Chris Davis, a dangerous Chris Davis in the middle of the lineup, so I want to see that happen,” Elias said.
“He had a frustrating campaign this year. I think the chances are good of him bouncing back and improving upon that and I’m going to get involved in the work going into his offseason work, his preparation and any new ideas or information that we can provide to him to help him out, we will do our best to do that. So that’s my hope.”