Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias on Tuesday denied he'd selected Chicago Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde as his new manager, declaring "very clearly it's a premature report" as news of the hire flashed across MLB Network on a muted television in his suite during a media briefing.
“I haven't looked at the specifics of the exact wording of this report, but certainly, the type of … [laughs] the type of report you're referring to is premature,” Elias said.
Hyde, 45, was in his second stint as Cubs bench coach, this time under manager Joe Maddon. He was the first base coach when Chicago won the World Series in 2016, and rose to bench coach for the 2018 season after Dave Martinez left that role to become the Washington Nationals manager. Hyde served as Rick Renteria’s bench coach in Chicago in 2014 before Maddon was hired. He previously served as Cubs player development director (2012-13) and minor league infield coordinator (2012).
The former Chicago White Sox minor leaguer’s first job in a major league dugout came in 2010, when the then-Florida Marlins fired manager Fredi González and several members of his staff at midseason. Hyde was in his first year as the minor league infield coordinator for the Marlins after parts of two years as a minor league hitting coach and five seasons as a minor league manager in that organization before he jumped to the big league staff.
A source confirmed Hyde’s hiring to the Chicago Tribune, after the New York Post and The Athletic were the first to report. It came less than a week after the Cubs formally announced him as part of their 2019 coaching staff.
The reported selection comes at the end of a protracted process after Elias was hired in mid-November. It left the Orioles in the rare position of attending this week's winter meetings looking for a manager.
Team officials have not confirmed Hyde's selection, though Elias had the chance to do so when he met with reporters Tuesday evening in his suite. Earlier in the media session, Elias said he hadn’t narrowed the six-candidate pool down to one, and hadn’t even crossed possible candidates from his list. He said he was "closer in the sense that I continue to work on this hire," but that he would not anticipate it being completed by the time the winter meetings ended Thursday. He reiterated that after Hyde’s selection was addressed as premature.
“I think I need to hire a manager first,” Elias said. “I need to choose one first, and that's step one. Once that's the case, there's all kinds of logistics involved. I have no way of predicting that. As I said, I think knowing where we're at right now, I think it would be very challenging to complete this hire here in Vegas.”
Still, the Orioles' seal of silence on the search was broken in surreal fashion. To that point in the media session, Elias had only said he interviewed six candidates — a number that matches the reported names of Hyde, Seattle Mariners bench coach Manny Acta, Washington Nationals bench coach Chip Hale, Arizona Diamondbacks vice president of player development Mike Bell, Colorado Rockies bench coach Mike Redmond and Kansas City Royals quality control/catching coach Pedro Grifol.
Elias would not confirm or deny their identities, and asked about the logic behind that — he was also hired in a hushed process by Orioles executive vice president John Angelos and managing partner Louis Angelos — Elias said, “I don't see any value in not keeping it close to the vest."
“These are people, great people, that have jobs with other organizations,” Elias said. “Those jobs are very important to them. The people are very important to the other organizations for which they work, and I think it's the least that I can do to try to maintain some semblance of quiet over the particulars of our process and our search, and our comings and goings. Stuff has a tendency to get out around the industry, but it's certainly not coming from me.”
Through what was a 15-minute briefing, Elias did his best to ensure that was the case. The first reports came out right as the session began, and the opening question was on if he’d made a hire.
“No,” Elias said.
Asked if he was closer, he said, “I'm closer in the sense that I continue to work on this hire.”
“It's first and foremost on my plate right now, and continuing to do work to further this process, as I said,” Elias said. “We're working with as much deliberation but also speed, simultaneously, possibly as we can.”
Asked if there was a distinction between hiring a manager and having offered one a contract, Elias was succinct again.
“No,” he said.
He went on to say “these are complicated decisions and processes,” and the Orioles were still doing background work on candidates. While he declined to say if he’d narrowed the field down or notified anyone who interviewed that they were no longer in the running, Elias allowed that “there are people in my mind that are at the forefront of probability.”
There were more questions about the experience level and titles of possible coaching staff hires under the hypothetical manager, as well as discussions of Elias’ feelings on the infield shift and a brief update on the team’s trade and free-agent discussions.
Then, the reports of Hyde being selected the Orioles’ next manager flashed across Elias’ television screen, smashing the hypotheticals that floated in the dim suite and forcing a direct acknowledgment of Hyde by name for the first time, 15 minutes into the session. Elias again called the reports premature. Other team officials echoed the sentiment that it was premature as the night went on.
"It's the winter meetings," Elias said.