Mike Elias, who played a key role in rebuilding the Houston Astros from the bottom of the league to the 2017 World Series title, will get the opportunity to replicate that success as the Baltimore Orioles’ next executive vice president and general manager, the club announced Friday afternoon.
As the man tabbed to turn around the Orioles after the club’s franchise-record 115-loss season, Elias, 35, faces a long road, but the Orioles organization has given him broad powers to execute his vision.
“Elias will oversee all baseball operations for the club and have full autonomy to build his staff and make decisions on all baseball matters that he believes will make the Orioles successful on the field, entertaining to fans, and impactful in the community,” the Orioles said in the hiring announcement.
Elias will take over for executive vice president Dan Duquette, who was dismissed Oct. 3, along with team manager Buck Showalter.
John and Louis Angelos, the sons of club owner Peter G. Angelos, selected Elias, who was the Astros assistant general manager and before that the team's scouting director. With their father stepping away from actively overseeing the team due to health issues this year, John Angelos, the club’s executive vice president, and Louis Angelos, its ownership representative, conducted the interviews as a two-man search party.
The two will introduce Elias at an event Monday morning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but did not comment on the hire Friday.
As a key part of the Astros management as that club rebuilt, Elias helped develop a roster that produced back-to-back 100-win seasons, two division titles, two American League Championship Series appearances, as well as the World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Elias’ rise to one of baseball’s top jobs has been swift. After playing at Yale and graduating in 2006, Elias joined the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007 as an area scout, climbing to manager of amateur scouting in 2010.
In 2012, he left the Cardinals to join Jeff Luhnow in Houston. Luhnow, the Cardinals former vice president of scouting and player development, had just been named general manager of the Astros and he brought Elias on as a special assistant and then scouting director in 2012. Elias was later promoted to assistant general manager with player development responsibilities and minor league operations added to his purview.
Elias was credited with steering the organization toward star shortstop Carlos Correa with the top overall pick in 2012 — the same pick the Orioles have in the 2019 draft — when he was the club’s scouting director.
The Astros are not only credited with making solid choices with their high draft picks — including third baseman Alex Bregman, pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. and outfielder Kyle Tucker — but also integrating analytics into every part of their organization and using the data to build a productive farm system during and after their rebuild.
Elias is the third high-profile departure from the Astros front office this offseason. Mike Fast, the director of research and development, left to become a special assistant with the Atlanta Braves, while Sig Mejdal, a special assistant who helped build the Astros’ analytics department after coming to baseball from a NASA background, left last month.
Mejdal could join Elias in Baltimore to do the same with the Orioles, according to multiple reports, including MLB.com.
Elias is the 15th man to hold the position as the Orioles' top executive, and the eighth to hold that job since attorney Peter Angelos bought the club in 1993.
While the Angelos brothers had plenty of time to formulate a list of possible candidates given Duquette was in the final year of his contract and the Orioles never came close to the playoff race, the process ended up taking longer than the other two clubs that needed new heads of baseball operations this offseason.
The New York Mets’ wide-ranging, public search landed them former agent Brodie Van Wagenen on Oct. 29. The San Francisco Giants hired Farhan Zaidi away from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Nov. 6.
In the interim, the Orioles have been meeting with a host of candidates with diverse backgrounds, from former general managers Ben Cherington and Ned Colletti to top deputies of progressive front offices like Elias and Philadelphia Phillies assistant general manager Ned Rice, as well as former team executives now with MLB in Peter Woodfork and Tyrone Brooks.
Such varied backgrounds allowed the Angelos brothers to get a full view inside how many of the top teams in the league operate, from integrating analytics into on-field instruction and philosophy to building an international operation and hitting on the premium draft picks they'll have in 2019 and beyond.
Elias has his work cut out for him on all those fronts.
The Orioles’ major league roster is thin on young talent, with Dylan Bundy, Mychal Givens and Trey Mancini the only established, homegrown players for fans to embrace. Free agent contracts to veterans Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner haven’t yielded the return the club has hoped.
The club’s farm system, while improved somewhat by the July trades that sent out former All-Stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Jonathan Schoop and Darren O'Day, plus former first-round pick Kevin Gausman, is more defined by its depth in the outfield and solid, if not great pitchers, than players who are projected to be All-Stars. Several improved drafts in recent years under amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich, with analytically inspired selections, have contributed to some improvement as well, but the overall system is lacking.
The Orioles spent just south of $1 million on international amateurs since the current signing period began July 2, but the club still lags far behind others in scouting and facilities in Latin American markets because of what Duquette called an ownership decision.
But after watching the team devote much of its resources to the major league roster while skimping on the rest of the operation, John and Louis Angelos have identified several of these areas for improvement.
In terms of staffing, Elias has several tasks to help fill out the rest of the organization.
He must hire a new manager to take over for Showalter and may seek a high-ranking No. 2 to help carry out the day-to-day execution of Elias' plan — possibly Mejdal.
Showalter's coaches are also all out of a contract as of Oct. 31, though a new manager will have the option to bring them all back.
Elias also will decide whether to retain other club executives and in what capacity, including vice president Brady Anderson, who took on a larger role amid the turmoil of the end of the Duquette-Showalter era. Director of player development Brian Graham has been operating as the interim general manager since Duquette's dismissal, and Rajsich has remained on as well, though his staff has been hit by departures.