In hiring Koby Perez as the Orioles’ new senior director of international scouting this week, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias filled another key vacancy in what was originally a pretty threadbare baseball operations department at Camden Yards.
It's only been filled out slightly since Elias came on in November. But despite a litany of dismissals last year both before and after his arrival, Elias said the club is essentially fully operational with less than six weeks to go before spring training.
"We're very busy on all fronts," Elias said Thursday on a conference call introducing Perez. “We have normal front office activity going on in terms of all manner of player decisions this winter, but also the coaching searches at the major and minor league level are ongoing. We've made a lot of progress there. I think we will announce the shape and specifics of those staffs once they are totally complete, but we are sort of quietly working day and night on those fronts and making hires as we go.
"In terms of front office positions, we will have hires throughout the year in the analytics space. There may be scouts added, other employees. But like I said in regard to our scouting and player development operations, we have full capabilities in place now to run those operations."
That declaration comes despite having dismissed amateur scouting director Gary Rajsich and player development director Brian Graham in November, leaving those two departments without their heads. At the winter meetings, Elias spoke of those dismissals by noting he and assistant general manager Sig Mejdal were "brought here primarily for scouting and player development purposes," and have "among the best track records in the industry in this regard."
They come from a Houston Astros organization that significantly pared its staff in recent years. And though Elias and Mejdal didn't do much of the decision-making on contracts being renewed for the Orioles’ staff, what they're working with is much smaller than the previous regime.
According to an archived page from Feb. 1, 2018, at the outset of last season, the Orioles' front office directory on their website listed nearly a dozen officials who haven't been replaced.
While executive vice president Dan Duquette curiously isn't listed on the February archived page either, the major league baseball operations heading no longer includes special assistant Lee Thomas, special advisor Joe McIlvaine, director of pro scouting and special projects Pat DiGregory, and director of analytics and major league contracts Sarah Gelles.
Gelles left for the Astros upon her contract expiring this past fall, while Mejdal is in charge of building the analytics department in Baltimore, where three jobs have gone unfilled.
Rajsich and special assistants Matt and Danny Haas aren't back in the scouting department, while Perez is a new addition there. Graham is one of three names no longer in the club’s player development department; neither is director of Dominican Republic baseball operations Nelson Norman nor assistant director of minor league and international operations Cale Cox.
That department also still includes minor league pitching coordinator John Wasdin, who will have a different job in 2019 after Elias brought in Chris Holt to fill that job.
Those who remain have been handed significant responsibilities. Director of baseball operations Tripp Norton had a significant role in the Rule 5 draft and director of minor league operations Kent Qualls handled the minor league portion of that. Elias mentioned in December that director of Pacific Rim operations and baseball development Mike Snyder was taking on a more significant scouting role, and on Tuesday, he said assistant director of amateur scouting Brad Ciolek was as well.
Yet seemingly most important, in the minds of the Orioles' new brass will be the hands-on role that Elias and even Mejdal will take in establishing things the way they want them before passing on ownership to someone else.
"I expect to have an extra level of personal involvement with the draft and with the farm system this year as we look to get things organized and up and running in the manner in which we want," Elias said. "Between my involvement and the work of people like Kent Qualls and Brad Ciolek, I feel very good about where we're at, and we will make determinations on the leaderships of those departments in a manner that is timely but also careful about who the right people are, and what the correct structure is for the future. I'm not in any kind of panic there to address those leadership positions."
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Note: The Orioles traded infielder Breyvic Valera to the San Francisco Giants for cash Saturday. Valera, 26, had been designated for assignment Friday when the Orioles claimed reliever Austin Brice off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. The club had originally acquired Valera in July’s Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.