Elias makes sweeping changes to Orioles' staff

September 10th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Restructuring continues to come for the Orioles, who informed 14 staffers in player development and international scouting that their contracts would not be renewed for 2020 this week. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias confirmed the changes Tuesday, the second wide-scale shakeup within the organization in three weeks.

The Orioles had previously dismissed director of baseball operations Tripp Norton and 10 members of their domestic scouting department on Aug. 23. The events of Tuesday bulk the total number of in-season dismissals to 25, which Elias said he plans to at least match with new hires this winter and beyond.

"It might not be the same title, same location, but we're going to be growing as a department. In player development, specifically, I expect an increased head count than what was here," Elias said. "It's tough stuff, but we're trying to reposition our organization for the future, to compete in our division and in this game. Decisions like this are often necessary and difficult. But right now we're 46-97 and we have a long way to go to get better, and we have to do things differently to get better."

Elias did not specify those affected, but those not returning include, per multiple reports: Minor League catching coordinator Don Werner, Class A Frederick manager Ryan Minor, Keys pitching and hitting coaches Justin Lord and Bobby Rose, respectively, and lead international scout Calvin Maduro. Longtime Minor League pitching rehab coordinator Scott McGregor is remaining with the organization, but he is taking on a new role in alumni relations.

Elias said the turnover extended to the club's operations in the Dominican Republic, where Elias said "we want to take our development operation there and improve it, improve our facilities and improve the integration and communication." He also said the organization has added scouts in the Dominican and hopes to do the same in Venezuela.

Asked if more changes are on the horizon, Elias said there are "still matters that are unresolved in one matter or another. We're doing the best we can to inform whoever is not coming back, to inform them as quickly as possible so they have time to catch on with another club."

Contracts for those leaving expire Oct. 31. Elias was hired to lead Baltimore's baseball operations department last November, after many of those dismissed this week were already renewed. Elias called the changes in response to the "very large wave of change going on around baseball," particularly in the player development sphere.

"The reality is there has been a significant amount of new info and new technology that has exploded across baseball in the last five or six years. We're all doing our best to react to it and position ourselves to it," Elias said. "This is the most highly competitive environment in baseball and we have no choice but to try to keep up. Bottom line is, we're just trying to get better."

Consider it the latest chapter in what's been a calendar year of change for the organization, which Elias came to from the Astros last winter vowing to modernize. Having played an integral role in building Houston into a model franchise earlier this decade, Elias arrived in Baltimore with intent to build "an elite talent pipeline" largely through scouting and player development, while also increasing the organization's efforts on the analytic and international fronts. Both Tuesday and last month's decisions were characterized as steps toward that goal.

Next comes a winter Elias is expected to spend restocking the system with his own people, in an effort to streamline the development philosophies Minor League pitching coordinator Chris Holt and others have spent this season installing. The Orioles are also expected to increase their investment in technology and further bolster their analytics team, further implementing both on the development side. Elias alluded to that possibility Tuesday by saying "there are going to be positions here that never existed before with the Orioles."

"The clarity in our direction, the unity we're going to have in our message and how we do things across departments, across levels, is going to improve morale quite a bit," Elias said. "I knew the amount of change the industry was going through, I knew the amount of change we'd just gone through in Houston. I knew the shape and structure of what the Orioles looked like. … This is not something that's coming out of left field for me. But that doesn't mean there aren't good people here, that the people we just parted ways with aren't good baseball people who will find good homes. But it does mean change was coming and is the right thing for this franchise right now. Specific to our situation, change is for the better."