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While Not an Ace, Irvin Deal Makes Perfect Sense for Birds

Cole Irvin As back
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It has been a while since my last pure offseason article, mainly because the Orioles haven’t been doing a lot, and this time of the year is dry with the news.

Luckily, the Orioles swung a trade last week for a starting pitcher that will help this team a ton in 2023 with aspects that haven’t been talked about enough.

So let’s get into the Cole Irvin trade…

Irvin has bounced around a ton in only four years in MLB. He came up with the Phillies and was horrible. He was so bad that he was shipped off to Oakland for cash considerations. In Oakland, Irvin found better success in 2021, but still he wasn’t the best, as he put up a 4.24 ERA, a 4.30 FIP, an ERA+ of 97, and a WHIP of 1.168.

Last year was his best year in the majors, when he put up an ERA below four and pitched 180 Innings. His advanced metrics were mainly the same, though, and he had a bad September, with a 6.75 ERA and a 1.590 WHIP that month. Irvin claims himself that it was due to just being tired from having to get ready so late into the Spring, something fans and media perhaps don’t talk about enough. Irvin pitched much better at home than on the road, which is typical for most A’s pitchers, due to the Coliseum’s dimensions.

Irvin isn’t perfect, but he offers a couple of things that will help.

He is an innings eater. He pitched 180 last year, which would have ranked first on the O’s. He had solid numbers in those innings, and his 3.98 ERA would have been second on the Orioles. Dean Kremer was the only starter with a better ERA, and Irvin had 55 more innings. Irvin is also durable, as his innings show. A durable starter who eats innings and is solid in said innings is valuable.

The most important aspect of this deal is the control the O’s have over Irvin. He won’t enter arbitration until next offseason, and they have him for four more years. That controllability, mixed with what he does on the mound, all made him very desirable.

So why Irvin, then? Orioles have a loaded and crowded system and majors right now, so why acquire another back-end type starter? This means this off-season is a failure, and we should just complain some more about how Mike Elias “lied” to the fans, right?

Slow your roll… let me explain.

Many fans say they should have tried to acquire Pablo Lopez instead of Irvin. The problem is that the Marlins were looking for major league pieces, not prospects. The Orioles don’t have a player like that, outside of Cedric Mullins. No, I am not giving up at the lowest a three-win starting CF for a guy who had a rough second half. Especially since the Orioles are supposed to be competing this year, and no one on the roster right now can replace Mullins’s production. Lopez only has two more years of control, compared to Irvin’s four.

What about acquiring an Ace? Obviously easier said than done. The most obvious is Corbin Burnes. Burnes is awesome, but there are problems with acquiring him that fans aren’t considering. For one, the Brewers don’t seem too motivated to trade him right now. Two, his price will be enormous; call it about five times the amount it took to get Irvin. Three, he only has two years left and wants to reset the market, and there is no guarantee that the Orioles will give him what he wants when that time comes.

Lopez and Burnes are better than Irvin, no doubt. However, you take away the bad September, and do Lopez’s numbers look all that different than Irvin’s? Combine this with the fact that you only had to give up your fifth-best shortstop prospect over your starting centerfielder, and the value for the Orioles was there. As for Burnes, it just doesn’t seem like he will get traded at this point. The Brewers will want the ranch, and with only two more years of control and the contract that Burnes will demand, the fit just doesn’t seem like it’s there.

Of course, we do have to touch on the other side of the deal, the two minor leaguers involved.

Irvin is a package deal with another pitcher, Kyle Virbitsky. He gave up a ton of singles, which led to a high ERA, but he had good strike-out stuff. We will see how Matt Blood can improve him.

The Orioles had to give something up, and it was talented infield prospect Darell Hernaiz. Hernaiz was ranked 16 on Pipeline’s list (18 on my list) and was one of the up-and-coming talents. He is a good player, and we could see him for the A’s in the next year or so, but he had no future in Baltimore. There are just too many talented infielders in this system, and Hernaiz got pushed toward the back, despite his talent.

Irvin gives the Orioles another solid starter who, yes, isn’t an ace but is much better than most will give him credit for. No, he isn’t the big splash, but when that splash might drain the pool you swim in and cost a ton to fix, is it worth it?

The addition of Irvin gives the Orioles upwards of eight legitimate options for the rotation going into spring, and he would have been the second-best – or best – pitcher in the rotation last year. Add to this not having to touch your big-time prospects or sacrifice a major league piece, and this move works.

This also means that the Orioles, for now, have their rotation competition set for a very interesting spring.

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