The Orioles have subtracted 11 individuals from their scouting department and front office, with executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias confirming the number but offering little in the way of names.
Elias said Brady Anderson remains in the organization in an advisory role, primarily with strength and conditioning. The executive title was removed in spring training.
Kent Qualls remains as director of minor league operations and Elias is retaining assistant director of amateur scouting Brad Ciolek.
Elias confirmed that he’s replacing director of baseball operations Tripp Norton, as reported earlier today.
While other names were left out of Elias’ eight-minute session with the media, held outside the clubhouse, the list of scouts let go, per sources, includes Dean Albany, Jim Howard, Dave Engle, Adrian Dorsey, John Gillette, Dave Machemer, Mark Ralston and Nathan Showalter.
The Athletic reported that Dan Durst and Frankie Thon also lost their jobs.
Everyone in the group was a holdover from the previous front office. The Orioles hired Elias in November.
It appears that Doug Witt and Rich Amaral, hired last summer, remain in the organization.
“We underwent some changes, pretty significant changes to our scouting groups,” Elias said. “This is the time of year for that and frankly, there has been a lot of it going on around the industry the last few years. We’re in a period of change right now with the industry and we’re in a period of change right now with the Orioles.
“This is sports. Change happens frequently, especially when you’re in a situation where the team has been losing and it’s kind of what we all get into when we get into this business. But we are trying to make changes to the way that the organization conducts business a lot of ways to adapt to the competitive environment that we’re in, which is very competitive. And sometimes to make changes you’ve got to make changes.
“It’s difficult, it’s the worst part of my job or anyone in my position’s job. These are really good men who had a lot of great contributions to the organization, and we’ll help them land on their feet.”
Elias stressed multiple times that the changes didn’t necessarily signal a reduction in staff.
“It was more than I’d like to see,” he said. “It’s not something that’s easy. But like I said, we’re reconfiguring quite a bit. We are going to be hiring quite a bit. We’re going to be very busy bringing people into this organization.
“This organization is going to grow over the short, next few months, but also the next year or so. We plan to have a lot of hiring in the scouting space and analysts and front office personnel. We’re going to have a lot of new people coming in. So this is just the organization moving along and adapting to the sport today.”
Elias indicated that the motivation wasn’t based on one specific element of the business. It wasn’t strictly financial or performance-based.
“Without getting into a blow-by-blow with each individual decision, anytime there’s a restructuring I think there’s a confluence of factors that come into play,” he said. “We have areas of investment that are growing in other areas of baseball operations. This is happening to every team across the league - the demands on infrastructure, on sports medicine, on facilities keeps growing. We have to make decisions with the landscape that’s in front of us. But there are instances where we will replace people’s roles kind of man for man, head for head, spot for spot, but there’s other instances where we’re reconfiguring the way that the scouts go about their business and do their work.
“I wouldn’t characterize this as a reduction. We’re going to be adding head count and it’s very possible that by the end of our hiring cycle that the overall baseball operations head count is higher than when I came here. But yes, there are changes going on in the scouting business in terms of greater availability of information in general, video and data. It just changes the way that scouts do their job.”
This has been a delicate area for Elias, who wants to avoid the perception that he undervalues the role of today’s scouts.
“I’m a scout by trade, and a lot of these guys I’ve been scouting with for 12 years, and I spent five years as an area scout, so I have as much appreciation for what they do, what they offer, how they go about their jobs as anyone,” Elias said. “It’s not a profession that is going away, but it is changing. It’s been changing for 70 years, 80 years, and the information landscape changes, the player landscape changes and we need to adapt with that.”
The professional scouting side took a heavy hit today.
“We will continue to pro scout and do so heavily, but I think we will be seeing more cross-pollination of amateur scouting and pro scouting with the domestic scouts that we have,” Elias said.
“I will repeat that we will be hiring more domestic scouts in the next few months in preparation for next year’s drafts. We expect to have a lot of new blood come in and bolster our staff.”
“Generally in baseball, baseball operations employees’ contracts run out around the time of the World Series, and you don’t want to wait that long to make a decision on somebody for their sake, so they have time to find a new position,” Elias explained. “So we do the best we can to make personnel and budgetary decisions as early as possible. There has been a lot of movement across the league this week.”
Decisions on the minor league side, including managers and coaches, are on hold.
“Those are things we look at when the seasons are over,” Elias said. “Those seasons are still ongoing. There’s usually something every year, so we’ll see.
“I’ve talked all along that we’re here to build a robust, vibrant, modern player-development apparatus, and a big part of that is the scouting that goes in, signing these players, but also the coaches, the strength and conditioning department. There’s so much that goes into an organization, and we want to excel in these areas.
“You know, we’re in a league with the Yankees and the Astros and so many great teams, and there’s a lot that we need to do and continue to do. But we have a great group of people here. We’re going to continue that. This is not to disparage the contributions that have taken place in the past, which are significant. But it’s my position to look to the future and make tough choices sometimes. But we wish everybody well, and generally things work out.”
One of the more significant moves today involved Norton, who spent more than 20 seasons with the Orioles.
“We will figure out how to allocate those duties and where that fits into the front office structure going forward,” Elias said.
“I’ve got to repeat, these are tremendous guys that have spent a lot of time with this organization. I and the organization are very appreciative of their contributions, but it’s the nature of the sports business and business in general that changes occur and we move forward. It’s a tough day, but we feel that some of these changes are the right thing for the organization.”
Elias is hoping to make a significant number of hires to fill positions by spring training.
“It’s a lot, it’s a lot,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Orioles conducted some on-field business prior to tonight’s game by placing reliever Shawn Armstrong on the 10-day injured list with a strained right forearm muscle and recalling pitcher Dillon Tate from Triple-A Norfolk.
Armstrong has posted a 5.01 ERA and 1.379 WHIP in 39 games. Tate made three appearances before the Orioles optioned him and allowed seven runs with seven strikeouts in six innings.
Manager Brandon Hyde is keeping his focus on trying to beat the Rays, saying little about today’s firings and deferring to Elias.
“It’s never easy, and unfortunately it’s part of this deal, but I’ll let Mike speak on that,” Hyde said. “I know he’s had to do that this morning. But you feel bad for them and their families.”
Update: The Rays sent 11 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored seven runs, the last four on Austin Meadows’ first career grand slam.