The minds behind the Astros’ last rebuild are doing similarly great things with the Baltimore Orioles.
The Houston Astros went down silently in their series opener against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night, losing by a score of 2-0. Many of the players that contributed to the Orioles’ win were acquired by their current general manager Mike Elias, a name that should sound familiar to seasoned Astros fans.
Elias went from scouting director to the assistant general manager during his time in Houston’s front office, which ranged from 2011 to 2018. He came to Houston alongside former (and now exiled) GM Jeff Luhnow, and was later promoted to assistant GM, a position he held from 2016 to 2018. Following that season, the Baltimore Orioles effectively gave him the keys to the organization, anointing him the GM as they entered a teardown of their own.
Elias was instrumental in guiding the Astros back to contention. He is known as the driving force behind the selection of Carlos Correa at first overall in the 2012 draft, and also signed off on the selection of Alex Bregman in 2015. Baltimore lost over 100 games in the first two full seasons of Elias’ tenure as GM (sound familiar?), but the fruits of their long and dreadful rebuild are finally starting to show, as they improved to 66-59 with their win on Friday and continue to be the surprise of baseball in 2022.
When he got his first GM job in Baltimore, Elias hired Sig Mejdal, a former high-ranking official of the Astros’ analytics department, to be his assistant. As of June 2022, he now shares that title with Eve Rosenbaum, another member of the Astros’ brain trust during their rebuild. Rosenbaum specialized in international scouting during her time with Houston and holds one of the most prestigious titles of any woman in the baseball industry. She was in the international scouting department when the Astros signed Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, and Cristian Javier.
The Baltimore Orioles are, for the first time in a while, a contending team. They’re winning games, they’re drawing crowds again, and no one expected it to happen so soon, but they have been the darlings of MLB this season and the end of their rebuild is almost here. The main architects of this squad are the same people that did it behind the scenes in Houston, who have been the winningest franchise in the AL over the past 5 years. Now, Elias, Mejdal, and Rosenbaum get to showcase their talents as executives. The work they have done is just as impressive in Baltimore as it was in Houston.
That was on full display in the Orioles’ victory last night. Their 2-0 win was powered by 8 masterful innings from starting pitcher Kyle Bradish. Bradish has had a tough rookie season, but he has good stuff, including a high-80s slider with well-above-average movement both vertically and horizontally. Last night was the best outing of his career by far, as he allowed just 2 hits, 2 walks, and struck out 6 on 96 pitches over those 8 shutout innings. He was acquired from the Angels in a package for Dylan Bundy following the 2019 season.
The difference in last night’s game was a 2-run home run by Ramon Urias, whose path to the big leagues is inspiring to say the least. A former Rangers and Cardinals prospect, he didn’t make his MLB debut for nearly a decade after originally signing with Texas. He was a waiver claim before the shortened 2020 season and has been a mainstay on the Orioles roster ever since, as he owns a career 109 OPS+ in 189 games with the team.
To close out the game, the Orioles summoned former Astro Cionel Perez out of the bullpen. Perez is another waiver claim by the Elias regime, this time from Cincinnati which is where the Astros traded him to before the 2021 season because there wasn’t room for him on the roster. Perez has suddenly transformed into one of the better relievers in baseball since becoming an Oriole, with a 1.64 ERA and 3.10 FIP in 44 innings this year.
Perez got into a jam and had to be replaced by Dillon Tate to get the final out. Tate is a former top prospect who was taken just a few spots after Bregman by the Rangers in the 2015 draft, and he has also become a premier relief pitcher. While he wasn’t acquired by the Elias regime, they commissioned a change to his repertoire before 2022 that saw him become a strictly sinker/slider/changeup pitcher. His ERA has dropped nearly 2 runs from last year as a result.
They may prove to be a thorn in the Astros’ side for the rest of the weekend, but aside from that, fans in Houston should admire the Baltimore Orioles. After all, the team on the field now was constructed by some of the same people that built the Astros’ championship team of 2017. Many of those players are still with the organization now.
Baltimore isn’t the only team that is benefitting from the effects of brilliant baseball minds that got their careers accelerated in Houston, either. David Stearns, current GM of the Milwaukee Brewers, was the assistant GM before Elias in Houston. The Astros are a well-oiled machine, and they’ve been one for long enough that the architects of the team are doing even bigger work elsewhere.