Baltimore Orioles

From patience to pressure: Mike Elias, Brandon Hyde looking forward to Orioles’ ‘non-rebuild mode’

Part of what made Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde the Orioles’ choices to lead the organization through a rebuild is that each had been through one before. That experience also offers them insight into when that process is over.

On Friday morning, both signaled the end of Baltimore’s teardown, one that began in earnest when Elias was hired from the Houston Astros as executive vice president and general manager in November 2018 and soon after selected Hyde, then a coach with the Chicago Cubs, as the manager who would oversee a struggling team in the coming years. The Orioles’ 2022 season offered many reasons to believe the rebuild had reached its end, with the club posting its first winning season since 2017 while finishing as the American League’s best non-playoff team, but a verbal declaration hadn’t been issued until Friday.


“I believe that our rebuild is behind us,” Elias said before embarking on the Birdland Caravan’s first full day. “We’ve got an incredible chance now to be a very, very competitive team for years. I think we’re all excited about that.

“We’ve been very strategic with everything we’ve done. We’ve been very consistent and deliberate, and now, we’re at a point where our focus is turned to getting into the postseason.”


In the Orioles’ first three years under Elias and Hyde, they lost 18 more games than any other major league team while posting nearly 60 fewer wins than any of their AL East foes. Meanwhile, as Elias’ front office stripped the roster at Hyde’s disposal of players and payroll, the organization overhauled its scouting, analytic and development processes. Paired with the early draft picks Baltimore acquired thanks to its poor seasons, those efforts resulted in a minor league system generally regarded as the sport’s most talented.

It began to bear fruit last season, when catcher Adley Rutschman — 2019′s No. 1 overall draft pick who became baseball’s top prospect — and several other products of the rebuild arrived in the majors to fuel an unexpectedly competitive campaign. Entering the year, the Orioles were again expected to be one of the league’s worst teams; not coincidentally, they had the majors’ lowest opening day payroll, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

But since the end of the season, Elias has frequently said his goal for the 2023 team is to reach the playoffs, and he acknowledged Friday this is the first spring training he’s openly set his sights there.

“This is the first time that we’ve gone in with true non-rebuild mode of going out to win games and from the standpoint we feel like we can compete,” Hyde said. “We showed it last year, and we’re really excited about our club.

“We’re not sneaking up on anybody anymore. People understand how talented we are.”

Orioles general manager Mike Elias, right, talks alongside manager Brandon Hyde during the team's Birdland Caravan event at Bel Air High School on Thursday. “I believe that our rebuild is behind us,” Elias said Friday.

Much of that talent comes internally, with the Orioles set to get full seasons from many of last year’s contributors who opened 2022 in the minors, including Rutschman and his successor as baseball’s top prospect, infielder Gunnar Henderson. The Orioles were patient with calling up both players, then immediately inserted them into starting roles. But Elias said the Orioles could get more aggressive in when they promote prospects to the majors, being more willing to have them in bench or bullpen roles if such a move improves the big league team — even if it comes at the detriment of the players’ long-term development.

“We’re just way more talented this year,” Hyde said.

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That’s true despite a relatively quiet offseason, one that defied expectations the Orioles could make a winter splash after Elias said at the end of last season that the team’s payroll would see a “significant” increase. Baltimore has yet to give a free agent a guaranteed multi-year deal under Elias, and its projected opening day payroll is $65 million, about 50% above last year’s season-opening figure but still baseball’s second-lowest mark.


Elias said the types of moves the Orioles made “kind of clicked off our exact wish list,” adding two experienced starting pitchers in Kyle Gibson and Cole Irvin, a backup catcher in James McCann and a left-handed-hitting infielder in Adam Frazier while a reunion with Mychal Givens brought a tenured arm to the bullpen.

“They’ve plugged holes, and they’ve boosted and reinforced the internal talent that we have,” Elias said. “It’s a statement to our internal talent that we feel like we have a lot of players both on the team and possibly joining the team soon that will take steps forward, and these veterans kind of stabilize that group for us.”

The Orioles could make further additions before the season, with Elias saying they’re still monitoring the thinned-out free agent market and keeping in touch with other teams about trade possibilities. But he also said if that doesn’t happen, he’s content with the group of players that will head to Sarasota, Florida, in a couple of weeks for spring training.

When they arrive, Hyde doesn’t plan to give a grandiose speech about how the rebuild is over; he never talked to them about that process, anyway. Plus, he believes they already know, with many having witnessed the transition firsthand.

“I think we’re ready for it,” Hyde said. “It was a tough few years, and not just from my seat, but fans also and everybody around that follows that team. It was hard, and to have expectations, we have confidence in our guys, and I think our players have a ton of confidence, and I just want them to take it head on, honestly.

“It’s good to have people think you’re good, and you want to embrace that.”