O's revamping operations, scouting

August 24th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles on Friday made sweeping alterations to their organizational ranks, dismissing longtime executive Tripp Norton and 10 other members of their baseball operations and scouting departments amid what club executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias called “a period of change right now with the Orioles.”

Elias confirmed the particulars of the shakeup, originally reported by MLB.com and other outlets Friday afternoon.

“We are trying to make changes to the ways the organization conducts business in a lot of ways, to adapt to the competitive environment we’re in,” Elias said. “Sometimes to make changes, you have to make changes. It’s difficult. It’s the worst part of my job. But these are really good men who’ve made really good contributions to this organization, and we’ll help them land on their feet.”

Several times during his roughly eight-minute session with reporters, Elias lauded the contributions of those dismissed, all of whom were holdovers from the previous front office. Norton had been the longest-tenured member of Baltimore’s baseball operations department, employed by the club since 1998 and its director of baseball ops since 2014.

Others to lose their jobs included veteran scouts Jim Howard, John Gillette and Dean Albany, according to multiple sources. Scout Nathan Showalter, the son of former manager Buck Showalter who had been with the organization since 2015, was dismissed as well, per sources. Baltimore’s pro scouting department currently consists of two members, though Elias said he expects that number to grow in the coming months.

“We expect to have a lot of new blood come in and bolster our staff,” Elias said. “I wouldn’t characterize this as a reduction. We’re going to be adding head count. It’s very possible that by the end of our hiring cycle, that the overall baseball operations head count is higher than when I came here.”

For now, the changes leave interim scouting director Brad Ciolek and director of minor league operations Kent Qualls as the highest-ranking holdovers in the Orioles' front office, behind new senior director for international scouting Koby Perez, vice president and assistant general manager for analytics Sig Mejdal and Elias. Former vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson remains with the organization in an advisory role, Elias said.

“We’re reconfiguring quite a bit," Elias said. "We are going to be hiring quite a bit. We’re going to be very busy bringing people into this organization. This organization is going to grow over the next few months and the next year or so.”

All told, Friday’s events marked Elias’ first broad-stroke personnel restructuring since he arrived in November from Houston, vowing to modernize the way the Orioles do business in scouting, analytics and other fronts. Elias headed the Astros’ amateur scouting department from 2012-16 and oversaw their player development operations from '17-'18, when Houston significantly decreased its number of professional scouts while boosting its operations in the amateur and international spheres.

Elias said the Orioles will “be seeing more cross-pollination of amateur and pro scouting” in the future, citing the increased emphasis on video and data amid the shifting nature of the sport’s scouting landscape. The Brewers are also reportedly in the process of merging their pro and amateur scouting departments under David Stearns, whom Elias replaced as Houston’s assistant GM in '17.

“I’m a scout by trade. A lot of these guys, I spent scouting with for 12 years. I spent five years as an area scout. So I have as much appreciation for what they do, what they offer, how they go about their jobs as anyone,” Elias said. “It’s not a profession that’s going away. But it is changing. It’s been changing for 70 years. And the information landscape changes, the player landscape changes, and we need to adapt with that.”

From the trainer's room
Citing a right forearm strain, the Orioles placed reliever Shawn Armstrong on the 10-day injured list Friday, recalling righty Dillon Tate from Triple-A Norfolk in a corresponding move. Armstrong owns a 5.01 ERA and four saves across a career-high 43 appearances this season, 39 of which have come with the Orioles.

“I don’t see him missing much time after the 10 days,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said of Armstrong. “He got checked out today. The medical people feel confident that he should be OK after the 10 days is up."

Tate, 25, made his MLB debut in July and has appeared in three games with the big league club. He was expected to receive a call-up when rosters expanded in September.