ARLINGTON -- As the dust settled upon the completion of Tuesday’s Trade Deadline, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias packed his things in Baltimore, where the O’s trade flow emanated from. He met the team in Texas before Wednesday’s season sweep-clinching 6-3 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Field, flying in for just the final day of the road trip.
Upon arrival, Elias had meetings scheduled with the club’s new leadership core, one wholly altered by trading away cornerstones Trey Mancini and Jorge López. After moves that sent shockwaves across the clubhouse, possibly signaling the club wasn’t fully set on competing in 2022, Elias wanted to address such concerns face to face and outline his vision.
“I wanted to, as I'm emphasizing right now to the public, [say] there's a plan in place,” Elias said. “It's going exceptionally well. We’ve got a very bright future ahead of us. I don’t want us utilizing the opportunity of the Trade Deadline the way we did the last couple of days to speak to the fact that this is a team that is going to have to be reckoned with from now and this point forward in our division. We’re going to have to scout and develop and manage the roster a certain way to maintain it that way. We’ve seen our competitors do that, and we’re there. We’re at that point.”
Such a seachange could come this offseason. Elias said that the club fully expects to be in on free agents this winter, with 2023 circled as a date when immediate competitiveness will be at the forefront of transactions. They come in tandem with the promotion of top prospects, at least a couple more expected before the end of the season.
“We're going to sign players this winter. I'm very excited about it,” Elias said. “I think that it's liftoff from here for this team.”
There were some conversations this Trade Deadline about adding big league-ready talent, Elias said, possibly younger players with multiple years of team control remaining. No talks panned out; Brett Phillips was the only addition to the big league club this Deadline, an acquisition made in exchange for cash.
It’s unknown what the Orioles’ internal postseason odds say, but on Monday, Elias cited the low mathematical probability of reaching the postseason as reassurance for trading Mancini, and then López. There was some baseball sense to each, Mancini in the final guaranteed year of his contract and López one example of a dominant closer they believe they can craft again. Still, the moves required some explanation in the clubhouse given the current proximity to the postseason -- two games over .500 and 1 1/2 back of the final AL Wild Card.
“We want to get into the Wild Card, but it's my job to manage the organization as a whole from top to bottom,” Elias said. “And at times, there are opportunities that feel like a step back. But in the big picture, it's a step forward for the entire organization, and that's the position I'm in.”
The Orioles appreciated Elias’ efforts to get to Texas by Wednesday morning. Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays were a few of those who sat down with him, publicly disappointed they’ve lost two of their loudest clubhouse voices. But they remain steadfast in their desire to compete this season.
Elias sees that. He hopes he got that message across on Wednesday.
“This is not something, obviously, where we're putting all of our chips and all this work that we've been doing around the organization for the past 3 1/2 to four years into the second half of 2022,” Elias said. “This is a decade-long window that I think is opening up, and I couldn't be more excited about it for Baltimore, for the Orioles, for these guys.
“The most important thing to us is we prioritize this long window that we feel is ahead of us among all other considerations. But as I said, this doesn't mean we're not giving our all here the rest of the way, and this doesn't mean that help isn't on the way. It's going to come from inside the organization. And I think these guys are going to give people fits in the second half.”
More quick hits from Elias
• Asked about top prospects DL Hall and Kyle Stowers, Elias was firm in his expectation to see them with the club by season’s end, but he needs to see certain results. For Hall, “he’s right there … [but] we need him to be consistent in Triple-A.” For Stowers, he’s in consideration “daily,” but “is he 100% ready? I don't know.”
• The Orioles are still finalizing a date for No. 1 overall Draft pick Jackson Holliday to make his professional debut. The O’s did say on Wednesday that five Draft picks are planned to make their Florida Complex League debuts this week, highlighted by 33rd overall Dylan Beavers on Thursday.