12:50pm: The Orioles have it official: Elias has been hired and given the title Executive Vice President and General Manager. He’ll be introduced by John and Lou Angelos at a press conference at 11am ET on Monday.
11:45pm: MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets that “it is expected that Mejdal would join Elias in Baltimore” if Elias is indeed named general manager.
11:08pm: The Orioles long-running search for a new baseball operations leader could be winding to a close. Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that “barring a sudden change of heart,” Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias will be named the new general manager in Baltimore. Elias had previously been reported to be among the top candidates in the search.
Elias’ official title with Houston is “Assistant General Manager, Player Acquisition,” wherein he’s headed up the Astros’ scouting operations both domestically and internationally. Prior to holding that role, Elias served as the scouting director, and Houston’s media guide describes him as “a driving force” in the decision to select Carlos Correa with the top pick in the 2012 draft — a decision that surprised many at the time, given that Stanford righty Mark Appel was considered the consensus top player available.
Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers Jr., Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley are among the other top names selected during Elias’ run as scouting director, though successive top overall picks of Appel and Brady Aiken in 2013-14 were decidedly less successful. Appel (who re-entered the draft in ’13) is out of baseball, while Aiken went unsigned after some considerable drama surrounding his physical, resulting in Houston receiving the No. 2 overall pick as compensation in 2015 (a fortuitous turn of events in hindsight, as it led to the selection of Bregman).
Elias, 36 in December, broke into business as a scout with the Cardinals back in 2007 and quickly ascended to manage St. Louis’ amateur scouting operations by 2010. The relationship he developed with eventual Astros GM Jeff Luhnow while working with the Cardinals played a role in moving from St. Louis to Houston, where he’s been a part of one of the game’s most data-driven and analytics-focused front offices for the past several seasons. That’ll help him bring a more modern approach to the Baltimore front office, though his history in scouting and certainly allows him to appreciate the need for a diverse approach to player evaluation.
Elias’ background would check numerous boxes for an Orioles organization that former GM Dan Duquette admitted had fallen behind in a number of key areas, including international scouting and analytics. For years, the Orioles almost entirely ignored the Latin American amateur market, and while their international scouting efforts did net them some quality players — Wei-Yin Chen and Koji Uehara come to mind — the apparently ownership-driven directive to forgo the amateur market led to a perennially thin farm system. That’s seemingly changing now that Peter Angelos’ sons, John and Lou, have taken up a greater role in the organization’s leadership, but there’ll still be plenty of work to be done in terms of adding to the international scouting staff and facilities.
As for Baltimore’s R&D / analytics department, the team has already lost director of analytics Sarah Gelles — somewhat coincidentally to the Astros (as first reported by BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Rich Dubroff, on Twitter). That’ll only give Elias more hiring work to do in order to begin to get the department up to par.
As for the Astros, the loss of Elias would be significant. Houston already lost director of research and development Mike Fast, who took a position as a special assistant to Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos earlier this month. Beyond that, special assistant Sig Mejdal left the organization earlier this month after serving six seasons as one of the Astros’ top analysts. Houston’s coaching staff has also been raided. Bullpen coach Doug White jumped to the Angels as their new pitching coach, while assistant hitting coach Jeff Albert was hired as the Cardinals’ new hitting coach. Meanwhile, hitting coach Dave Hudgens was named the Blue Jays’ new bench coach late last week. Suffice it to say, Houston GM Jeff Luhnow and the remainder of his staff will have ample hiring needs in the coming weeks, while others in the organization could find themselves moving up the ranks with a promotion to fill some of the newly created voids.