Orioles director of player development Brian Graham won't be back for 2019 after serving as the team's interim general manager to bridge between Dan Duquette and new executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, according to an industry source.
Graham, who just completed his 11th season in the Orioles organization and sixth as farm director, saw a familiar pattern take hold at the end of his time. Before Graham came to the Orioles, he spent six years as the player development director for the Pittsburgh Pirates but was let go after serving as interim general manager after a transitional period to their new general manager at the time, Neil Huntington.
That's how it seems to have played out this time in Baltimore. While Elias said on the Orioles Hot Stove radio show on 105.7 The Fan that he was relying on the likes of Graham and other holdovers to inform decisions like last week's roster protections from the Rule 5 draft and Friday's deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players, Graham won't be around to continue to serve in that role.
“Mike Elis told me this morning that I did a great job and he thanked me for [the] great job we did over the last couple of months, but that he needed to bring in his own people,” Graham said in a statement. “I’m thankful to the Orioles organization and the Angelos family for the opportunities i was given. We did a great job in a lot of areas. There’s a lot of really good people in the organization, and working with Buck Showalter was a great experience. Hopefully something good is on the horizon, and I hope nothing but the best for Orioles.”
In his time with the Orioles, Graham has overseen a farm system that endured some lean years due to injuries at the tops of drafts but has seen a surge of late thanks to some improved amateur selections and trades. Recent breakouts like outfielders Austin Hays and Ryan McKenna in 2017 and 2018, respectively, have garnered notice around the industry and brought some of the Orioles' successes into the forefront.
Recently, Graham and his staff have seen the farm system deliver the likes of Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, Tanner Scott, and Mychal Givens to the major league roster. Scott and Jimmy Yacabonis benefited from a unique program that stretched them out as starters in the high minors to improve all of their pitches and give them time to work between starts.
But those small successes on the pitching side never masked over the fact that developing front-line starting pitching for the Orioles has been difficult. Top picks Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman made it to the majors quickly, albeit with a long injury detour for Bundy shortly to follow, and Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright held down rotation spots in the 2016 playoff season. David Hess was one of several homegrown pitchers to fill a need this year.
With Graham's dismissal, two of the department heads the Orioles held over as a bridge from the Duquette/Buck Showalter era are gone, as amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich was also informed this week he wouldn't be back. Those two and vice president Brady Anderson were noted in a team release as holdovers when Duquette wasn't brought back; only Anderson remains.
In the interim period, which coincided when many of the baseball operations contracts expired, several staffers were informed they wouldn't be back. As a result, Elias' hiring to-do list now includes a major league manager, a farm director, a scouting director, international and amateur scouts, analysts and software developers.
Since Elias was hired last week, he brought in Sig Mejdal as the assistant general manager, analytics, and tapped former Astros minor league pitching coordinator Chris Holt for that job with the Orioles.
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The Athletic first reported Graham’s dismissal.