When Jeff Luhnow took over the general manager's job in Houston after helping build the St. Louis Cardinals farm system, he didn't go alone — he brought new Orioles general manager Mike Elias with him.
Elias was one of Luhnow’s first hires, bringing him along as a special assistant before installing him as director of scouting the following August.
The success of bringing along faces he knows won't be lost on Elias as he joins the Orioles, since he saw it work so well for his former boss. Though there are often stipulations about how many employees a departing executive can bring with him to a new job, there are several possible candidates who could help Elias create a smooth transition.
What titles he'd give his former Astros connections, and whether they'd be able to take over roles already held in the organization, are unclear. Each person connected to Elias, however, comes from a track record of success in the Astros' organization that would be a boon for the Orioles.
And it seems like not only the Astros are preparing for this. Philadelphia Phillies assistant pitching coach Chris Young was promoted Wednesday, as first reported by The Athletic, in a move to keep him from leaving for another team's pitching coach job. Young was with the Astros through the end of last season as a pro scout and later a scouting supervisor, taking on a major role in their operation before bringing his skill set to the Phillies' staff.
As a former minor league pitcher who has worked in data-minded organizations like the Astros and Phillies, Young would have been an ideal candidate to help Elias build out a major league staff.
Absent that, here are some other candidates to join Elias in Baltimore:
Mejdal was initially the director of decision sciences for the Astros when Luhnow brought him from St. Louis. He was hired with the Cardinals in 2005 to help build statistical models that informed some of the game's best drafts in that time, serving as the director and amateur scouting anayst.
The Cardinals had more major leaguers drafted in Luhnow's time at the helm than any club, and Mejdal played a significant role in that.
But despite his multiple master’s degrees and time spent at Lockheed Martin and NASA, Mejdal's role with the Astros was more on the player development side, integrating the data-driven methods rather than doing the number-crunching himself. He spent 2017 as a development coach with their Short-A New York-Penn League affiliate in Tri-City, integrating new information into rookie-level players’ daily routines. In 2018, he was a roving instructor doing that at every level.
In its infancy, the Astros had a four-man analytics staff, so everyone had a variety of responsibilities. But considering the Orioles have lost both director of analytics and major league contracts Sarah Gelles and analyst Kevin Tannenbaum in the past year, there's certainly a void there.
Mejdal's name alone, plus the idea that Elias is willing to work with an analytics staff and mold the entire operation, could draw better applicants toward the Orioles than anything else. MLB.com reported that Mejdal is a strong possibility to join Elias in Baltimore, and the fact that he left the Astros last month means he might not count against an agreed-upon limit of colleagues Elias can take.
Espada, the Astros' bench coach, was connected to nearly every managerial opening this fall and remains a possibility to take the final one remaining in Baltimore.
He was hired away from the New York Yankees — where he was their third base coach — when Alex Cora left Houston's coaching staff to manage the Boston Red Sox. Espada's resume also includes time on the Miami Marlins' staff after a lengthy minor league career, and he coached with Cora for their native Puerto Rico at the World Baseball Classic in 2017.
If familiarity is something Elias is searching for early Espada's candidacy will be a serious one. The Orioles will be seeking the kind of symbiotic relationship between the front office and the manager’s office that many teams have mandated and they’ve sorely lacked. However, the Astros have lost three other coaches already and could be loath to lose a fourth.
Though he could be tapped for a larger role if he stays in Houston, the Astros' national amateur scouting supervisor also worked with Elias in St. Louis, where Gross was an area scout until 2012. He joined the Astros as their West Coast cross-checker after the 2012 draft.
Gross seems to be in a similar situation as Elias was when Luhnow left St. Louis — he's near the top of their amateur scouting hierarchy and has grown into a trusted role with his outgoing boss. Whether it’s in Baltimore or Houston, he seems primed to become a scouting director in the near future.
The Orioles Hall of Famer won the World Series as the first base coach for the Astros, but stepped away this year after he suffered a hematoma and collapsed at the team's parade.
Dauer put on his baseball pants again for the All-Star Game in Washington in July to join AJ Hinch's American League staff. Though he was careful not to angle for a job someone else held at any level in the Orioles' organization, it was clear at that showcase event that he seemed like he was getting the itch to return to the game and would love the honor of helping the only franchise he ever suited up for as a player return to the levels they were at in his heyday, when he and his teammates won the 1983 World Series.