The Orioles acquired a left-handed pitcher cole irvin in an exchange with the Athletics, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter connections). Right-handed pitcher perspective Kyle Virbitsky will also travel to Baltimore as a field prospect Darell Hernaiz heads to the A’s. The clubs have since announced the deal.
On the one hand, the move comes as a surprise, as there was no prior indication that the A’s were buying Irvin or talking to the Orioles. On the other hand, it’s not shocking to see the club keep tearing down the roster, as they have been aggressively going down this path over the past year. Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Sean Manee and Chris Bassit were all traded just before the 2022 campaign, while Frankie Montas was distributed mid-season and Sean Murphy This winter.
With the club seemingly willing to whittle down the roster to the posts, any established Oakland player is at least a speculative trade candidate. There was no real rush to move Irvin, as he still had four years left in control of the club, but he will qualify for arbitration at the end of this season and start earning a bigger salary. It looks like they got an offer they liked enough to pull the rip cord early and drop Irvin from the roster in another future-focused move.
The Orioles have been looking for rotation upgrades all winter and would have been still looking earlier this week. They haven’t missed out on huge payrolls in recent years, so Irvin’s low pay and years of cheap checks surely appealed to them. They made a modest improvement to their rotation this offseason by signing a veteran Kyle Gibson to a one-year, $10 million deal, but they have remained silent until today. Irvin would quickly become the club’s second most experienced starter behind Gibson.
Irvin, 29 next week, was drafted by the Phillies and made his MLB debut with them. He made 19 appearances in 2019 and 2020, but with an inflated ERA of 6.75 at that time. But his minor league results were much better, and the A’s took a chance on sending money to Philadelphia for him. The change of scenery has gone very well for him, as he has made 62 starts over the past two seasons with a 4.11 ERA in 359 1/3 innings.
This new change of scenery will however carry risks for the O’s. Irvin has been successful in Oakland the past two years with a low-strike, touchdown approach. He walked just 5.2% of the batters he faced in those two campaigns, which is a very high number. For reference, the league average for rookies last year was 7.5%. But he only hit batters at a 16.8 percent rate for Oakland, well below the league average of 21.6 percent last year. His ground ball of 37.6% over that span was also a bit below par. This type of profile worked for him in the pitcher-friendly limits of Oakland Coliseum, but might not be as effective in different conditions. It’s perhaps remarkable that Irvin has posted a 3.44 ERA at home the past two years, but a 4.88 mark away from Oakland.
The O’s are apparently undeterred by these splits and have added Irvin to their starting mix, where he and Gibson are expected to take two of the spots. What happens next will be less certain, with options like Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Tyler Wells, Bruce Zimmerman, Michael Baumann and Spenser Watkins on the 40-man. Each of these guys has a bit of MLB experience, but inconsistent results have kept them from truly establishing themselves as big leaguers. There is also Grayson Rodriguezwho is considered one of the best pitching prospects in the sport, but he has yet to make his MLB debut and missed most of last year due to a lat strain. John means could be a factor down the line, but probably not until mid-season due to Tommy John’s surgery in April of last year. It’s a group with a lot of unknowns, but the club are hoping to get some reliability out of Irvin and Gibson while they sort through the rest and see who separates from the pack.
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