How Mike Elias drastically changed the Orioles' approach in the international market

The Orioles' recent focus on signing international amateurs is showing dividends on prospect lists
Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Baltimore Orioles Photo Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

From 2012 to 2019, the Baltimore Orioles signed 31 international players across seven signing periods. From 2019 to 2024, that number grew exponentially, as they signed 144 international players in just five signing periods.

From 2012 to 2018, Dan Duquette was the Orioles GM and he frequently traded international money, or "slots," away. For example, in 2013 the Orioles traded international slots and several players to the Cubs for Scott Feldman. In 2017, the Orioles traded slots for Yankees' Matt Wotherspoon and Dodgers' Jason Wheeler. And in 2018, the Orioles traded slots to the Phillies for Jack Zoellner. The list goes on.

By trading away international money, Duquette had less total money to spend, and in turn was less likely to land the best international players. Beyond this, Duquette simply did not spend much money on international players.

Why did Dan Duquette avoid the IFA market?

The Athletic suggests ($) that Duquette received this order from previous owner Peter Angelos, who "...didn’t approve of dealing with some of the unsavory characters who act as conduits for international amateurs, and he didn’t think it was financially responsible to give six- and seven-figure bonuses to 16-year-old players with little known about their backgrounds and skills."

Sure enough, Duquette did not spend more than $1M on any international player during his tenure. He signed just two players in 2013-14 and one player in 2017-18.

Mike Elias took over for Dan Duquette in November of 2018 and made it one of his goals to increase international scouting and spending. After all, some of the game’s best players, such as Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña Jr., and Yordan Alvarez to name a few, are international. So it makes sense to place more emphasis on that very talented pool of players.

After taking over, Elias went to work. He signed 144 players in five signing period, including six players for $1M or more. His smallest class was 20 players, more than Duquette's largest class of 11 players.

What exactly has Orioles current boss Mike Elias done differently?

Elias traded fewer slots away, giving the O's more money to spend and allowing them to compete for bigger international names.

Elias also focused on developing the O's international scouting department. Only months after being hired, Elias recruited the highly respected Koby Perez as the new senior director of international scouting and he remains an integral part of their scouting department to this day. Elias also increased the total number of scouts in Latin America from just one full-timer in 2019 to five.

Finally, John Angelos took over for his ailing father in 2020 and was named their main "control person." Perhaps this change in leadership allowed Elias to adopt his aggressive international approach, one that Peter Angelos would have been more reluctant to approve.

Now, have any of these changes made a difference? Their 25-man roster does not include any of their international signings. In fact, the Orioles' current success has little to do with their increased presence in the international market; most of their players were drafted or traded for.

However, Elias' new approach has greatly bolstered the farm system. Nine of the O's top 30 prospects are international signings, including catcher Samuel Basallo, the 12th-best prospect in MLB. Elias signed him for $1.3M in 2021 out of the Dominican Republic, and Basallo is getting close to big-league ready.

But this was not even his largest signing. Elias signed their 18th-best prospect Luis Almeyda for $2.3M in 2023. Elias also snagged outfielder Braylin Tavera and infielder Leandro Arias in 2022, their 12th and 14th best prospects respectively.

Most of these international players are still years away from the big leagues. But what makes Elias' approach so valuable is that it gives the Orioles flexibility and depth. They can bring up these prospects in the coming seasons or they can trade them for current talent. They are not just built to win now but to win for many years to come. Elias' increased scouting of and spending on international players will soon come to fruition.