After more than a month of searching, the Orioles finally found their man to take over the reins of the organization and hopefully lead them to a better place. Late Tuesday night, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the O’s GM job, or whatever it ends up being called, would go to Astros assistant Mike Elias, unless there was a change of heart.
Local reporters including The Athletic’s Dan Connolly also reported on Elias’s name on Wednesday morning. There’s still the possibility of some weird reversal because this is the Orioles we’re talking about, but for now it sounds like it’s mostly down to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Connolly also reported that Elias will be the top decisionmaker. There’s not another hire coming in above him.
If you had asked me for my ideal of a candidate when this whole process began, my general answer would have sounded a lot like Elias: A young up-and-comer who has tasted success in assistant roles with a winning team and is hopefully ready to bring that experience and his own vision to rebuilding the moribund Orioles roster.
Elias has been with the Astros since 2012 and as his bio on the Astros website notes, the Astros have selected more MLB players in the draft than any other team since then. Elias, 36, was first a special assistant to the GM for scouting and most recently held the title of assistant general manager, scouting and player development, where he oversaw both domestic and international scouting. He also worked for the Cardinals starting in 2007.
The Astros, as you may recall, went from three straight 100+ loss seasons from 2011-13 to back-to-back 100+ win seasons in 2017 and 2018, including winning the World Series in 2017. A lot of people deserve credit for that success, but for an O’s fan looking for a sign to hope, it’s exciting that one of the architects is going to be taking over here.
Hiring Elias contrasts sharply compared to the process that brought his predecessor, Dan Duquette, to the team. The Orioles went through a period of time where everyone who was seen as having any talent or future in a front office effectively ran away from them screaming. They had to settle for Duquette, who had been out of the game for a decade. It worked out for a little while, but the flaws of the whole arrangement eventually became overwhelming.
In announcing that the O’s would be moving on from Duquette, ownership said in a statement that the new hire would have “the final determination on all baseball matters.” This was a sad thing for them to have to say since it should have been the case already and apparently was not.
The fact that someone whose career arc is still rising upwards - Elias - is ready to step into this situation is another encouraging sign that the Angelos family might really mean it. The Orioles are not having to settle for a retread fifth choice this time around.
MLB.com reporter Mark Feinsand adds that Elias is expected to be bringing along former Astros analyst Sig Mejdal to the Orioles. Like Elias, Mejdal had been with the Astros since 2012, where he served as the Director of Decision Sciences. This is not a familiar title to Orioles fans, since our favorite team has lagged greatly in the analytics department. There were no decision sciences. There was only whatever made trading for Gerardo Parra seem like a good idea.
Mejdal, on the other hand, has been at the forefront as the Astros have revolutionized the game. Maybe, having built up the Astros, he is ready for a new challenge. Prior to joining the Astros, Mejdal, 52, worked with the Cardinals for seven years. A 2014 Sports Illustrated article noted that, over those seasons, the Cardinals drafted more MLB players than any other organization. You may be noticing a theme here.
As baseball developments go, this is akin to a white light shining down from the sky and a heavenly chorus opening up in song. These guys have been working in proximity to one another since 2007 and were involved in different ways in the Cardinals 2011 title and the Astros 2017 title. It’s no guarantee that they can do the same here, but it sure sounds a whole heck of a lot better than the dysfunction that plagued the later years of the Duquette-Buck Showalter partnership.
This is not going to be an overnight transformation. Even if Elias is the perfect person for the job, who hires the perfect subordinates, it’s going to take time to build up the 47-win MLB roster and depressingly barren farm system left by Duquette into a competitive team. At least for where the Orioles are right now, it sounds like they’re heading in the right direction. That’s better than nothing.