When the offseason begins for the Orioles soon, they’ll have a general manager in place to hit the ground running for the fall and winter. O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was hired last year on Nov. 16. So he was not here as the offseason began after 2018 and had to play catch-up. That is not true this year.
A few days ago Ben McDonald and I interviewed Elias on the pregame show on the Orioles Radio Network. Here are a few of the questions and answers.
What are your top priorities when the offseason starts?: “We are anticipating a really busy offseason. Not just in terms of player moves, which every team goes through, but we still have a lot to do organizationally. Hiring. We’ve got some infrastructural projects going on in the background. And, just so much across the organization. Building the organization from the minor leagues up. From international up. So, we’re going to have a lot of activity, and I don’t see any rest on the horizon for us.”
As in any year, Elias will look to build some depth through the organization this winter: “In terms of organizational depth, you know you look at minor league free agency. I’m hopeful that, with a little more of a head start, we can build out our Triple-A depth a little better. A guy like Asher Wojciechowski would have been an attractive minor league free agent. But he was snapped up by the time we got in. So hopefully, we can get a bit more of a head start with those type of small moves.”
Elias talked about potential upgrades in the rotation for 2020: “Well, I think that John Means and Dylan Bundy - their status in the rotation is cemented. Other guys we’ve seen here have gotten nice long looks with us. But in terms of making upgrades there, we’ll have to take a look at it.
“Getting (Alex) Cobb back will be nice. Sounds like everything is going real well after his hip surgery, and that will be a nice boost, getting that veteran arm back. But we’re going to be on the lookout for pitching help in any way, shape or form.
“Also, our Triple-A rotation next year, I think, is going to be really exciting. We’ll have four or five prospects in the Triple-A rotation, which is rare. And that means that those guys will, hopefully, be knocking on the door if they stay healthy and productive.
“Keegan Akin could be here really soon. Dean Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann, they probably need a little more time in Triple-A. They just got there. But the fact they’ll be in our Triple-A rotation will be nice. So, I’m really looking forward to those guys making their way up to the big league club here, but we’ve got to give them the time they need in Triple-A to develop.”
Elias said developing quality young pitching could help the rebuilding go faster: “Well, the fact that we have some depth on the pitching side in the minor leagues makes me sleep really well at night. Because I think, wisely, Dan Duquette and his scouts in this organization had used a lot of high picks on pitchers over the last three years, and used them well.
“I think with our pitching program in the minor leagues, we’ve been able to unlock some performance from these guys this year that they weren’t showing before. We developed a really advanced pitching program in Houston, and I was fortunate to bring (assistant general manager) Sig Mejdal and (minor league pitching coordinator) Chris Holt with me from Houston. So, for the most part we were able to plug and play what we wanted to do. Made some pitching coach hires and we’ll be able to continue that and keep it rolling. But it really brought out the best in these guys, and these were good draft picks.
“We’ve got to keep these guys healthy and performing because pitching is volatile. There is so much inherent injury that there is strength in numbers. The fact we do have some numbers there is good. It frees us up as we go through this process to use high picks on a college hitter like Adley Rutschman, knowing there is some pitching in the organization already.”
What does Elias say when fans ask him why the future will be better?: “We have, I think, if you look at the recent rankings across all publications that do this, we’ve got a consensus above-average farm system now. A lot of that is pitching depth. Akin is probably one of the closer ones. I also mentioned Kremer and Zimmermann. But we’ve got two high-upside young studs in DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez. We’ve got to hold their hand and get them to Baltimore, and it will take some time. But DL is one the higher-upside left-handed pitchers that I’ve seen in recent years, and Rodriguez, what he did at 19 in full-season A-ball is pretty special. So having those guys presents some opportunity for upside. And we’ll keep drafting well and picking well at the top, and that farm is only to keep getting better and better.
“But on top of that, you see some players here at the big league level this year that showed potential to be part of a playoff team. As these guys continue to mature and perform, 24-, 25-, 26-year-old players, we’ll see what we have there as well. I do believe the future is bright, and the players in the minors are a huge part of that.”
Bowie wins in Eastern League Championship Series: Just because a pitcher won 19 games last year in the majors doesn’t mean he will roll right through to a win in a minor league playoff game. It didn’t work out that way last night for Yankees pitcher Luis Severino. He actually took the loss as Double-A Bowie beat Trenton 7-2 on the road to even the Eastern League Championship Series at 1-1.
The Baysox host Game 3 tonight, with lefty Alex Wells (8-6, 2.95 ERA) facing Trenton right-hander Clarke Schmidt (2-0, 2.37 ERA). Schmidt, rated as the Yankees’ No. 5 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, spent most of the year at High-A Tampa before moving to Trenton late in the season.
Last night, Severino allowed five hits and four runs (one earned) over 3 2/3 innings. Winning pitcher Cody Sedlock allowed one run and four hits over five innings. Yusniel Diaz was 2-for-5 with an RBI triple and T.J. Nichting went 3-for-4 with a two-run single. Over his last four postseason games, Diaz is 8-for-19 with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs.
Bowie will host the rest of this series now, with Game 3 tonight and Game 4 Friday. If necessary, Game 5 will be Saturday night at Prince George’s Stadium. Go to baysox.com for ticket information. Maybe Birdland will pack the place to cheer Bowie on to a championship.
Thank you Brooks!!!!! https://t.co/vzNya36vTS-- Buck Britton (@BuckInHere) September 11, 2019