Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias returned to work in Baltimore on Friday having met many of the team’s goals for this week’s general manager meetings in Arizona, with some preliminary trade talks and meetings with representatives over possible free agents taking up some of his time there.
“This was my first general manager meeting as a general manager, so just kind of figuring out the flow of it and conversations from that standpoint was illuminating, especially for a team in our position, with the types of moves that we’re trying to make,” Elias said. “Other than networking and participating in league meetings, and the obvious stuff that you do, our group spent some time comparing notes with other clubs about possible trade fits.
“I would characterize those discussions as kind of light and preliminary, piggybacking on discussions from last summer and last winter, but just seeing the level of interest, especially the early-winter level of interest from some teams for some of our players. Then also, some discussions on agents that have clients that fit for us, for what we’re doing, who want to play here and keeping those discussions and relationships open. It’s always a busy time.”
Elias, whose team boasts arbitration-eligible trade chips like Jonathan Villar, Mychal Givens and even Trey Mancini, who despite their talents may not fit into the team’s competitive timeline, said it was instructive to see how other teams regarded that in terms of how they sought out the Orioles on trade talks.
“Teams understand that we’re still relatively early in the process of looking for young talent and building a talent base, and really prioritizing the future,” he said. “That can make for natural matches with teams that are in the opposite mode, so you seek one another out early. But it also changes the type of free agent talks that you have, and agents understand the types of opportunities that we provide right now and the benefits that might come with coming to the Orioles right now. It just changes who wants to talk to you.”
While the Orioles aren’t ticketed to spend a ton of money in free agency, their position certainly makes it so some minor league free agents and major league veterans who haven’t had roles recently could find better opportunity with the Orioles. Those players could be brought into the fold more quickly than the trades could happen, considering Elias said it’s “hard to force any kind of timing” with those deals.
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He said: “You’re always mindful of the various milestones and choke points of the offseason. The next one coming up is the reserve list deadline, which is Nov. 20, and we’ve got to add everyone we want protected from the Rule 5 draft by then. If you’re worried about 40-man roster space, you look at that date.
"The tender deadline is a couple weeks after that, Dec. 2. That holds some importance in terms of the trade market, and then after that, it’s more the Winter Meetings and the Rule 5 draft itself, etc. You really can’t force timing over the winter, but those little miniature events do create some very small pressure points along the way.”
Elias’ first general manager meetings since the Orioles hired him this time last year away from the Houston Astros came as the Astros are coming under fire for allegations of using video to steal signs during the 2017 season when they won the World Series, according to multiple reports from The Athletic. Major League Baseball is investigating the allegations. Additionally, the team fired assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for derisive comments to female reporters during the team’s American League Championship Series celebration.
While Elias was on the scouting side and not involved at the field level while he was their assistant general manager, being with the Astros from 2011 to 2018 means he has plenty of ties there.
“I can’t comment on the specific [sign stealing] investigation that we read is taking place for obvious reasons, but I think negative attention that’s been directed towards the Astros recently is a shame,” Elias said. “I’m very aware of all the good things and good people and incredible work and hard work that was done there basically over most of this decade to build that franchise into what it is now.
"I hate to see those accomplishments and those people disparaged just by association with a couple of weird episodes. We’ll see how it all shakes out, but there are a lot of positives — the people who run that place and the operation as a whole that just unfortunately is being overshadowed by some negativity right now. We’ll see where in regards to this latest situation, we’ll see where the league takes it. But I hope for the best.”