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O’s Acquire SP Cole Irvin from Oakland for Hernaiz

Cole Irvin
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It’s been a frustrating offseason for O’s fans. Between watching all our preferred free agent targets sign elsewhere – several with AL East rivals – and the Angelos lawyer Failsons hiring lawyers to sue each others’ lawyers, our dreams of having a true contender in 2023 to follow up the surprisingly fun 2022 have had cold water thrown on them all winter.

We finally got a bit of good news yesterday though, as Mike Elias made a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

Cole Irvin, who turns 29 next week, will be joining the Birds, along with RHP prospect Kyle Virbitsky. In return, the O’s are sending infield prospect Darrell Hernaiz west.

Over the last two seasons in Oakland, the lefty Irvin has made 62 starts and racked up 359 innings, while posting ERAs of 4.24 and 3.98, respectively. Of course, pitching in the cavernous home of the A’s is a bit different than tossing in Baltimore, even with Walltimore out there.

There is plenty about which to be hopeful though, if you look closely.

Pablo Lopez, of course, was a name on many Birds fans’ radar as a potential trade target. He instead went from the Marlins to the Minnesota Twins last week.

Irvin pitches to contact and doesn’t miss many bats, though his K% did tick up just a bit over the last two years, from 16.3% in 2021 to 17.3% last year. During that time he also cut his BB% from 5.5% to 4.9%. He allowed 20 home runs to righties in 585 total batters faced in 2022 (one every 29 BF), and five to lefties in 156 (one every 31). Nineteen of those dingers came on the road, and 16 to righties away from home.

Generally, I’d say we should feel pretty good about Irvin when he toes the rubber at OPACY, while probably clenching a bit when he makes starts in New York or Boston. But hey, you can say that for just about any O’s pitcher in memory.

With Irvin in the fold, the O’s starting rotation looks a bit deeper, as he joins Kyle Gibson as the grizzled veterans of the staff, with Dean Kremer and Kyle Bradish penciled in, along with the much-anticipated debut of Grayson Rodriguez expected to come during the first week of the season. Earlier this week, they avoided arbitration with Austin Voth, himself a pleasant surprise at times last year. We also have the return of John Means as a light on the horizon.

Hernaiz, 21, was a 2019 fifth-round pick who went from Delmarva to Aberdeen to Bowie in 2022. But as a 2B/SS/3B, he found himself behind a laundry list of top prospects such as Gunnar Henderson, Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby, Jackson Holliday, Jordan Westburg, and Coby Mayo. The O’s dealt from a position of extreme depth here, and while many of us expected it to be someone like Ortiz, Norby, or Westburg on the move (for a bigger-name pitcher), this will have to do for now.

Virbitsky, 24, a 17th-round pick in 2021, struck out over a quarter of the batters he faced last year in A-ball. My hopes aren’t high for him, but this O’s staff has been turning out some surprising results from unheralded arms of late, so I certainly won’t write him off as a throw-in.

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