When Mike Elias joined the Orioles from Houston in 2019, he knew his work was cut out for him. A struggling ballclub with no hope of making the playoffs, Baltimore needed lots of work done in the front office as well as on the field.
A mere four years later the Birdland General Manager, who was born only an hour away from Charm City, has been named the 2023 MLB Executive of the Year. A well-earned award as the Orioles witnessed their first 100-win season in decades.
Mike Elias wins executive of the year after helping orchestrate a big Orioles turnaround
Elias' tenure began with a 54-108 record in 2019. That was, however, no shock to the club. The poor results were a result of trading away star players before the trade deadline. Several minor league prospects were acquired, and a strong minor league system began to form.
Following a shortened 2020 campaign due to COVID, the 2021 season was no better for Birdland. A 52-110 record was matched only by the Arizona Diamondbacks, another squad that utilized the strategy Elias applied in Baltimore. With the first overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft, the Orioles chose shortstop Jackson Holiday.
2022 was a big sign that Baltimore was turning their fortunes around. Adley Rutschman, the first player drafted by Elias back in 2019, began to make his mark in the league. Orioles faithful saw their first winning season since 2016 as the team only missed the playoffs by three games.
Most O's fans would use the word "finally" to describe the 2023 season, but what Elias has done would have taken most executives five or more years. His second-ever draft pick, Gunnar Henderson, is expected to win Rookie of the Year and highlighted an incredible squad of young talent.
Baltimore secured an impressive 101-61 record en route to winning the AL East and locking down the top seed in the American League playoffs. Ultimately there would be no playoff success for the team, but the monumental shift in the regular season performance was definitely worthy of recognition for Elias.
Aside from Rutschman, Jackson and Henderson, other notable Elias regime draft picks include Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad and Jordan Westburg. Many more are currently working their way up the minor league system in hopes of reaching the senior squad.
Elias does not specialize at drafting alone. Several key trades boosted Baltimore's future prospects and landed them pitchers and outfield players alike who are now regulars for Brandon Hyde to use. One trade sticks out above the rest.
December 2019 has now proved that Elias hit the ground running. The injury-prone Dylan Bundy was traded to Los Angeles for four pitching prospects. Three of them, Kyle Brnovich, Zach Peek and Isaac Mattson fizzled out, but Kyle Bradish was a different story.
Bradish developed into the O's ace in 2023. He narrowly lost out on being nominated for a possible Cy Young award. Elias did well to get a pitcher who had the fourth-lowest ERA in the majors by disposing of a player who failed to live up to his potential.
Other notable acquisitions include trading for Ryan O'Hearn. Criticized when it happened, O'Hearn shocked many pundits by putting together a strong campaign when he stepped up for the injured Ryan Mountcastle.
All-Star closer Jorge Lopez was traded in 2022 to the Twins for four other pitchers. Some label this the premier deal of Elias' tenure due to the potential output of the pieces which came in Baltimore's way.
Yennier Cano, a 2023 all-star, was the top acquisition from the trade. His tandem work with Felix Bautista in the back end of the bullpen neutralized opponent's bats until the latter's injury. However, Cano joined Baltimore with several players who could one day be his teammate.
Cade Povich and Juna Nunez also came over as minor league prospects which the O's hoped would develop. Povich has done well and could make his major league debut in 2024 if the pieces fall into place for him. Nunez has work to do but could climb to AA or AAA by the end of the season.
Elias's work has been revolutionary for Birdland. His work has established the Orioles as one of the best teams in the league, and arguably the club with the strongest minor league system. It was a well deserved award for the man who could help return Baltimore to the pinnacle of Major League Baseball.