Elias, 35, is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High in Alexandria and Yale University and a longtime lieutenant of Houston General Manager Jeff Luhnow, under whose regime the Astros became both one of the most aggressively analytics-driven franchises in baseball and one of its most successful, with three playoff appearances in the past four seasons and a World Series title in 2017. Elias’s most recent title in Houston was assistant general manager of scouting and player development.
USA Today, MLB.com and the Houston Chronicle first reported the news of Elias’s hiring, although the Orioles have not confirmed it. It was unclear whether his title in Baltimore would be general manager or something else, but either way he is expected to be the team’s chief baseball operations executive, reporting directly to ownership.
The Orioles have undertaken a complete restructuring following the misery of 2018, firing manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette in October, and for the first time showing an intention to compete for top international amateur talent. In addition, the franchise’s ownership is in flux, with Peter Angelos, 89, in failing health, and his sons, Louis and John, now running the organization and heading up the GM search.
The hiring of Elias would signal a philosophical shift for the Orioles, who were considered one of the least analytically inclined franchises in the game, despite the full and almost uniform embrace of data-based decision-making across the sport. Elias could also be joined in Baltimore by Sig Mejdal, the former NASA engineer who spearheaded the Astros’ vast analytics operation but who resigned two weeks ago and has said he wants to remain in baseball.
Elias would be the sixth prominent member of the Astros organization to depart this fall, following Mejdal and director of research and development Mike Fast (who joined the Atlanta Braves as a special assistant to the general manager), plus coaches Dave Hudgens, Jeff Albert and Doug White, who left to take higher-profile jobs in other organizations.
Elias, a former honorable mention All-Met pitcher for Jefferson High, came to Houston with Luhnow in 2011, after they served together with the St. Louis Cardinals, and oversaw the Astros’ amateur scouting his entire time there, getting promoted to assistant GM in 2016, when the team added oversight of player development and minor league operations to his list of responsibilities.
The team credits Elias as the “driving force” behind the selection of shortstop Carlos Correa, the 2015 AL rookie of the year, with the first overall pick in 2012, as well as the selection of third baseman Alex Bregman with the second overall pick in 2015. The Orioles, by virtue of posting the worst record in baseball this season, hold the top overall pick in the 2019 draft.
In filling their top baseball operations position, the Orioles undertook a wide-ranging search, with candidates ranging from experienced ex-GMs such as Ned Colletti and Ben Cherington, to former Orioles executive Ned Rice, to current Major League Baseball officials Peter Woodfork and Tyrone Brooks.
Among the first orders of business for Elias will be to hire a new manager to replace Showalter, who was let go after 8 ½ seasons in Baltimore, during which he took the Orioles to the playoffs in 2012, 2014 and 2016 but also presided over the franchise-worst 47-115 debacle in 2018. And among Elias’s potential candidates could be Astros bench coach Joe Espada, who interviewed last month for the managerial jobs in Texas and Toronto.