BOWIE — Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said Saturday that he is confident that he and any other members of Baltimore’s front office with ties to the Houston Astros will avoid being connected to the sign-stealing scandal that has embroiled the 2017 World Series champions.
Elias, assistant general manager of analytics Sig Mejdal, director of pitching Chris Holt and director of baseball development Eve Rosenbaum, all of whom worked for the Astros while the club stole opposing pitchers’ signs and relayed them to batters with a trash can-banging system, were not mentioned when Major League Baseball issued a report on its investigation into Houston last month. Elias worked as an amateur scouting director and assistant general manager under Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow from 2012 to November 2018, when he took his current position with the Orioles.
Luhnow received a one-year suspension after the league’s investigation and was subsequently fired by the Astros. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Luhnow was potentially aware of a sign-decoding system used by Houston known as “Codebreaker."
“Look, it’s been unfortunate to watch from my standpoint,” Elias said, speaking at Orioles’ Birdland Caravan stop at the Calvert Brewing Company in Upper Marlboro. “It’s been a disturbing series of events. I know Sig Mejdal feels the same way. It’s just been tough for anyone in the sport to watch.
"I think the plus side is I think the actions that league has taken and the light that’s been shined on this issue will serve to make for a better product and clean up the game in that sense.”
Elias said he was “confident that the group that’s here that came from Houston will not be connected or implicated in the sign-stealing situation.” Primarily responsible for the amateur draft and international scouting during his time with Houston, Elias also said he doesn’t believe the scandal detracts from the work he and others did in building the Astros’ farm system into one of the best in baseball, producing players such as Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman and developing prospects that were included in trades for pitchers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.
“For us personally, we stand by the incredible work that was done with the Houston Astros in terms of player development, the draft, the international pipeline, all of the achievements and the advancements that we made as a group over there,” Elias said. “Those are the areas that are going to be the most important for a team like the Orioles that’s rebuilding now, and that type of expertise is why we’re here.
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“It’s been tough to watch unfold, but we’re really focused on the work we’re doing here. We’ve got a long of young players in the system, we’re adding more, we’re giving them a first-class player development experience. The future’s looking up here.”
Speaking at Sunday’s happy hour at Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Mejdal echoed Elias.
“Like you guys, I’ve read of the reported and admitted behaviors, and it is just simply disturbing,” he said. “That’s the best description; it’s disturbing. I’m happy the commissioner’s office is doing all they can to put a stop at this throughout baseball. But the work we did and the reasons why we’re here are sort of player development, and that was the draft, that was international, and that was the development of the players, and that’s all irrelevant to the behaviors we’re learning about.”
Around the horn
Saturday marked the second day of the Orioles’ Birdland Caravan with stops throughout the region, with Elias, Trey Mancini, Hanser Alberto, Mike Bordick and Ryan McKenna visiting Annapolis, Ellicott City, Fort Meade and Bowie. The caravan concludes Sunday.
>> Elias said it’s possible that the Orioles sign another free agent pitcher to a major league contract, though there is concern the impending start of spring training could make it difficult for that pitcher to get ready in time for the regular season.
>> Cedric Mullins, the Orioles’ Opening Day center fielder in 2019 who struggled to the point of being demoted two levels, will have the chance to break camp with the major league team, Elias said.
>> Right-hander Michael Baumann, who shared the Orioles’ 2019 Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award with 2018 first-round pick Grayson Rodriguez, garnered consideration to be nonroster invitee to major league spring training, Elias said, and could pitch in major league games at some point in the spring.