Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias stressed again today that wins and losses won’t be a priority next season as the Orioles move through the rebuilding process.
It’s still about infusing talent into the organization. Rebuilds don’t happen overnight or in one year.
Elias covered a variety of topics during a 15-minute media session, including the expectation that Chris Davis will be with the team in spring training. He didn’t offer any specifics about the coaching staff’s chances of remaining intact.
Here’s a sampling as the Orioles and Mariners take a 1-1 tie into the second inning. John Means threw 25 pitches in the top of the first, and Shed Long led off with a triple and scored on J.P. Crawford’s single. Austin Hays singled with one out in the bottom half and scored on Renato Núñez’s double:
Elias on if he’s seen progress: “Well, we’ve got a lot of areas to get better in. I think that’s no secret, but overall (when) we sit back and look at what happened around the organization this year, it was a very positive year, a lot accomplished across the organization.
“When we came in here, the big league team (had) the worst record in the league last year. The farm system was ranked in the 20s, the low 20s, depending on where you were reading. We had no real international scouting function, a minimalist analytics group. All of that’s changed. We’ve got our program going internationally. We’re signing players, we’re competing for players out there. We’re building towards a bigger analytics staff. The farm system’s taking a huge jump this year. Some of that was the draft with the No. 1 pick. Most of it was what happened with players already in the system, the player development improvements that we made, the changes that, the step forward we continue to take.
“Here at the big league level, we’re still losing games, way more than we want to. This is not fun. It’s not easy to crawl out of. Almost all the players that were on the team last year got better this year. I think this team has played its butt off all year. It’s battled and I think we can all go with the individual success stories, but Means, (Anthony) Santander, (Pedro) Severino, (Trey) Mancini having a huge year. There are too many to go through right now. (Hanser) Alberto.
“Obviously, not everything goes perfectly in a season, in a baseball season. I think the positives this year way outweigh the negatives and our organization is positioned so much better for the future than it was at this time last year.”
On manager Brandon Hyde; “He did great. This group played hard for him all year. Like I said, we had so many players get better this year. I think a lot of that is the work of the coaching staff, but also a big part of his job this year is communicating on a nightly basis, daily basis with the fan base, what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.
“I love his attitude. I like the way he’s got the staff working and the players working. We’ve just got to keep getting more talent in here, get more talented in the minor leagues, in the major leagues in our personnel. This is a long process. We know where we’re starting from. We know the division that we’re in. This is not easy, but we’re moving in the right direction.”
On needing fans to understand: “I can’t ask anyone to embrace losing the way we have been. Our record last year was historically bad. This year it’s not going to be a ton better. Nobody wants to do this. We never want this to happen again, but this is where we started from. The group of people who joined the organization this year, we took this on, trying to fix it. In order to do that, we’re making changes. We’re not just doing the same thing with the same people that have done here before.
“It’s difficult. It’s a long way to go. We’re far behind. Like I said, no analytics, no international scouting were the two pretty big ones. There’s a long way to go, a lot to be done. I think the support has been tremendous. The people coming out here, they love this team, the people in this city love this team. They know that this needs to be done. I’m confident that they’re going to come back, and they’re going to come back in a big way.”
On next year’s record: “I think we’re going to be in the strategic mode of what I said in the beginning this year, improving the overall talent level in the organization. That’s going to be priority No. 1. What comes after that is secondary. I hope that we keep kind of improving in a linear way, but that’s not always the case with these, but that’s my hope.”
On Alex Cobb: “I think he’s going to be in spring training, have a normal spring training, and we’ll roll him out there and get a full season out of him. He had hip surgery and also had a very minor knee procedure that from everything that our medical staff has been told went smoothly and is not something that’s probably going to present a lot of complications. He should feel a lot better than he did this year.
“We will have the issue of him not having pitched much at all this year, and then going out next year, and how is be built up? How is his arm? The hip and knee issues should be totally behind him. I can’t wait to see him in spring training. We’re going to need him.”
On status of coaching staff: “I’m not going to get into a status check on people in the organization. There is still a season ongoing and it’s a delicate time of year for a number of reasons on that level. But obviously we are moving through the organization with the best, the quickest timing that we possibly can in all of these areas.”
On evaluating the staff: “I think they did well. Like I said, across the board, we had a lot of players taking a step forward. I think we did a good job this year with positioning and the shifts - when you look at the objective numbers on that, we’re actually one of the top couple of teams in the league - and there was a lot of positives with the development that happened with the players. They have been a real good group.
“They were thrown together late. A lot of these guys were hired in November, December, January and it’s a difficult circumstance coming into the American League East with a team that’s a lot of waiver-wire type guys. And I think they did very well with the circumstances.”
On whether he’ll make incremental moves over winter to improve roster: “I think we’ll take that as it comes this winter. We’re taking a broad, strategic organizational view here and, like I just said, winning a couple extra games is not the end goal here. We want to get this team back to the playoffs and have this organization be in a healthy spot for a very long time. So that’s going to be first and foremost.
“Having worked for a team, the Astros, when we were losing games like this, it always feel like it’s the bullpen’s fault. But we’re not outscoring our opponents a lot so you end up in a lot of close games and bullpens are going to give up runs sometimes and when that’s the case, it can feel that way. But a lot of it is just the overall team needing to improve. The starting pitching, first and foremost, the offense can continue to get better, the defense can get better. But, yeah, we’ll look at stuff as it makes sense this winter.”
On priorities over the winter: “Well, we’re going to have to prepare for the Rule 5 draft, so there’s going to be several of our players on the minor leagues that will need to be added to the 40-man, which is going to require us to take some players off, so we’ll make those decisions. Our front office is meeting about it and talking about it already and then we’re going to try to get incrementally better as we have as guys become available to us. We just want to improve the roster, but certainly the Rule 5 adds will present some immediate decisions.”
On whether work can be done to improve Davis’s production: We’re going to try. I have talked to him recently. I’ve talked to him through the year, talked to his representation. We’re gonna try different things. It’s a really frustrating situation. It’s one of the many things that we stepped into and have inherited and are working on. But he’s got a lot left on his contract, that’s the reality, and as I’ve said, I don’t take that lightly. So we’re going to keep working with him.”
On possibility of trades over the winter: “I don’t know. We’ll be listening. There are players and there have been players and there will continue to be players that interest other teams that we have under control. Like I said, the (Andrew) Cashner trade was a different story because we were going to lose him to free agency. But if it doesn’t make sense for us, if it doesn’t make the tide of talent in the organization rise, I won’t do it.”
On how much arbitration figures into trading players: “It figures in. We’ll have to look at our overall budgetary picture and take that into account. We will have several players going into arbitration this winter. As several teams look at them and value them the amount of money that they make, whether it’s arbitration or a free agent contract is a huge part of that equation.”
On philosophy regarding arbitration filings: “We’re file and go. Almost every team is now.”
On working for the Angelos family: “It’s been terrific. I wouldn’t have come here (and) taken this job if I didn’t think there was going to be a good rapport and good relationship with the ownership group and they’ve recognized the need for big changes, and sweeping changes and they’re allowing us to do it and they’re supporting throughout that. That’s really important.
“This is not an easy situation we’re in. We all need one another’s support and understanding that this is going to be a rocky climb, but it will be worth it.”
On whether the farm system is better than he expected: “Yeah, I think so. We had a lot of players in the minors take steps forward. I think in particular our pitching coaches did some unbelievable stuff this year.
“You see the performance that we’re getting out of these guys. Just as an example, Cody Sedlock, who was dead in the water this year, I don’t know what the program was in the past, but with us just changing some things in spring training, changing his approach, strikeouts went up three per nine, his ERA went down. It’s a wonderful story and there were a lot of them.
“Attitude in the minor leagues was better. Players knowing that this is a rebuilding organization there’s a ton of opportunity. They like the direction the players in the minor leagues. I hope that we can continue to improve things.”
Hyde didn’t put Mancini in today’s lineup due to a bruised leg.
“His leg’s pretty beat up,” Hyde said. “I talked to him last night and I said, ‘I think it’s a good idea if we give you a day today.’ He was good with that. And then this morning it’s even a little more sore, so made the right decision on giving him a break today.”
Hyde closed his session by remarking on fan support last night, when the announced attendance was more than 22,000.
“The energy in the ballpark last night was fantastic and I’m looking forward to the day when it’s like that all the time because that was more normal for me and that was great,” Hyde said. “There was energy and I think our guys responded by scoring a few right away because of it. It’s too bad we didn’t come away with a win last night but I appreciated the way the fans showed up last night and were loud and energetic. It was a big difference.
“We talked a lot this year about how hard it’s been. It has been hard and it’s been a trying process and it’s hard to see, and I can totally understand, the frustration right now, but it will get better. Mike and Sig (Mejdal) have done some really good things in their career to be able to acquire talent and to get talent in this organization and produce a winning ballclub. And I’ve seen from the start in 2012 to about three years later what the difference is, so I’m just asking for everybody’s patience in this and I want fans to feel good about the start of this process and trust that it’s going to get a lot better.”
Update: Davis homered with two outs in the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie.