LAS VEGAS - The big screen television inside the suite of Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was tuned again today to MLB Network.
“I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any Orioles moves,” he quipped.
Always start with a joke. Play to the crowd.
Elias didn’t confirm that he made a decision on his manager and that Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde received an offer.
“I feel very good about where we’re at with it,” he said. “A lot has happened in the last 24 hours since we talked. Like I said yesterday, the reports that were out there were premature and overzealous, but I feel good about where we’re at.
“In my position I can’t be out in front of events or the one who’s naming names or specifying timelines in public, obviously. But I think we’re in good shape. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to have a good hire in due time.”
Elias denied that the reports influenced the activity that followed.
“No, not really,” he said. “Like I said, the reports and the way the reports were characterized were premature and inaccurate at that time. But this is an unusual situation. We’re at the Winter Meetings doing this and rumors have a tendency to snowball into reports at the Winter Meetings. And also, I’m giving daily updates to the media on everything the team’s doing, so it’s just kind of an unusual situation. But we continue to make progress getting closer to a hire every day and today was no different.”
Asked to specify what was inaccurate, Elias replied, “As I said, the reports, especially as I saw them afterwards, the way that certain things were phrased or characterized was not reflective of where we were at that time. But we’re making progress and we’ll see what happens.”
When can we expect an announcement?
“I don’t know,” Elias said. “I’ve got to complete the hire first, frankly, and I don’t know. But I’m aiming for ... we’re going on a holiday break. I’m trying to do this as fast as possible. We’ve got to hire a lot of coaches, we’ve got a lot of things to do. This is a really important hire for the present, but the future of this franchise. I feel really good where we’re at in the hiring process right now, but the sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned.”
Elias will wait until the manager is in place to delve into the coaching staff. The manager will have the loudest voice in hires, but Elias said it’s hard not to have a collaborative effort.
“We all bring our networks together. I think it improves the outcome. But certainly as I’ve said, I’m going to look to yield to his preferences first and foremost,” Elias said.
“Certainly, I know of people and I might have some ideas. I imagine that the manager will, as well. And other people in the front office might, as well. So, we’re just holding off on all of that.”
Many of the coaches on the 2018 staff remain available and will be considered.
“Again, I’m going to yield to the manager’s wishes in putting together a candidate pool,” Elias said. “We’ll certainly keep an eye on those guys. I think there was good work done while they were here, but it’s a new group coming in, a new front office, going to be a new manager, so we’ll see what all of that entails. But I wouldn’t rule it out.”
The front office hires could wait until early in 2019.
I wrote earlier today about agent Scott Boras meeting last night with Elias to discuss Chris Davis’ struggles and brainstorm some ideas. It probably didn’t merit confirmation, but Elias stated again that Davis will remain with the Orioles.
“We meet with every major agency while we’re here and especially with agencies that have prominent players on our team, prominent players in our farm system,” Elias said. “As I’ve said, it behooves us and it behooves Chris and it behooves the Boras Corporation to collaborate and share notes on how we can turn his performance around (next) year.
“It was a great discussion. I really feel like we will all be pulling on the same rope in that regard. I haven’t talked to or met with Chris yet. I’m waiting to hire a manager first, but I’m looking forward to doing that.
“He’s on the team, he’s on this team for a while. I just want to see his production get better. He’s a big part of this roster. He’s a big part of his lineup. This team is much worse when he’s not a dangerous force in the middle of the lineup, so he’s here. He’s a good teammate, he cares a lot about the Orioles, but he was personally just extremely frustrated with the year he had and it wore on him. And I think turning the page to 2019, new front office, new manager, probably some new coaches will be good for him.”
Can analytics be used to produce a bounceback season for Davis?
“Most teams in baseball right now are operating with a lot of advanced information that’s derived from radar tracking devices that are fixed in major league stadiums and then how you analyze that information is proprietary and then how you get that information to your players and package it in such a way that your players use it is proprietary,” Elias replied.
“There’s a lot of competition going on amongst teams on who can do a better job in that. So, certainly if we can do a better job with that, I think it can be of help to him. I think it will take us a little while to get those capabilities fully up to the level we need them to be, but I’m hopeful that will be helpful to him.
“Power hitters in today’s game, left-handed power hitters, all the shifting that happens, the attack plans that are developed against them, it can be tough. But I don’t think that’s going to be 100 percent of the equation for him. But certainly if we can equip him with those tools, as a front office we owe our players that.”
Elias passed along good news on Mark Trumbo, who is making a speedy recovery from knee surgery.
“He’s coming along well,” Elias said. “As of this point, our expectation is that he will have a normal start to the season. Obviously, these things can change, but I feel very good about everything we’ve heard and the medical staff and (head athletic trainer) Brian Ebel ... things are 100 percent on course.”
Same with reliever Richard Bleier following lat surgery.
The Orioles have the first pick in Thursday morning’s Rule 5 draft and won’t pass on it. They met yesterday to discuss the candidates and will convene again tonight for a “smaller meeting,” Elias said, with a final decision coming.
“We will use the pick and we will have a list of players that, if they’re still available for the second pick, we’ll use the second pick. But if all those players get taken and we run out, we will not use the pick.”
A report surfaced today that the Mets had a meeting with Adam Jones’ agent. Elias was asked whether the Orioles could have interest.
“I’ve heard only wonderful things about him since getting to Baltimore,” Elias replied. “Even from before I was in Baltimore, it was very obvious he was an important fixture in the city and on the roster and in the clubhouse and all those things. And I’ve heard nothing different since joining the organization.
“We’ll monitor the free agent market. He’s no different in that regard. And as I’ve said, I expect to be on the slower and later side with major free agent moves, just because of the other work that we’re going and where we are right now and what this opportunity presents for players. We’ll kind of see where we’re at, but it’s going to be later in the winter.”
Elias said the Orioles won’t necessarily look to get younger with future moves.
“We’ll be, I hate to use the word ‘opportunistic,’ but that’s what we’ll be,” he said. “If we feel that there’s a move to be made this winter that will either improve the team or stabilize the team or present an avenue for frankly converting a player into trade assets later on, that’s just part of the business. So, we have to think about that stuff.”
Elias seems inclined to hold onto the young minor league assets.
“I certainly don’t envision us trading players who are in the minor leagues right now, or seeking to, unless it’s part of a larger trade,” he said. “The players that are young talents that are going to be contractually controlled by the club for several years are obviously very valuable to us. I would hesitate to move them, just for those reasons. But again, it’s the business today that we are always listening and being open-minded.
“Even when we have no intention of trading somebody, there’s s just too many conversations going on and it’s our job to have those communications.”