O's deal for southpaw Cole Irvin from A's

January 26th, 2023

The Orioles spent nearly two months exploring all avenues for acquiring another experienced starting pitcher. On Thursday, they pulled off a trade to land a reliable one.

Baltimore received left-hander Cole Irvin in a deal with Oakland, adding a quality starter who should slot into its five-man rotation to open the 2023 season. The O’s also acquired Minor League right-hander Kyle Virbitsky, and they sent shortstop Darell Hernaiz (the club’s No. 16 prospect per MLB Pipeline) to the A’s.


Orioles get: LHP Cole Irvin, RHP Kyle Virbitsky
A’s get: SS Darell Hernaiz (O’s No. 16 prospect)

Irvin, who will turn 29 on Tuesday, was a rotation stalwart in Oakland over the past two seasons, providing dependability for the staff. He posted a 4.24 ERA in 178 1/3 innings over 32 starts in 2021. He pitched even better in ‘22, recording a 3.98 ERA in a career-high 181 innings over 30 starts, also setting career bests in strikeouts (128) and WHIP (1.16).

The Orioles could have Irvin for the next four seasons. He will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2024, and he is under team control through the end of the ‘26 campaign.

Baltimore’s lone addition to its starting rotation this offseason had been right-hander Kyle Gibson, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal on Dec. 5. On that day, Orioles general manager Mike Elias expressed his desire to still bring in another veteran arm this winter.

However, many of the top starters on the free-agent market signed large, multi-year deals with other teams in December and January. It became apparent that if the O’s wanted a significant boost to their rotation, they would likely need to deal from their prospect depth.

That’s what Baltimore did in parting with Hernaiz, a 21-year-old who was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Americas High School in El Paso, Texas. He spent most of last season with Single-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen, but he had a 13-game stint with Double-A Bowie late in the year.

The Orioles had a potential future logjam at shortstop, which led to them swinging this deal. Jorge Mateo is likely to be the starter this season, while highly ranked prospects Jackson Holliday and Joey Ortiz both play the position. Gunnar Henderson can also play short, although he’ll likely spend most of his time at third base in 2023.

It may have been worth parting with Hernaiz to acquire Irvin, who gives Baltimore a much-needed left-handed arm for its rotation. He’s likely to be the only southpaw starter who will break camp with the team, as John Means is recovering from Tommy John surgery and probably won’t return until this summer.

Irvin may even be in the conversation to start Opening Day vs. the Red Sox on March 30 at Fenway Park. He’s never previously started an opener, but he took the mound for the A’s second game of the 2022 season.

While Irvin and Gibson will be locks for the Orioles’ rotation, the battles for the final three spots have tightened. Dean Kremer, Kyle Bradish and Tyler Wells all pitched well at times last year and will be favorites in the mix, while Grayson Rodriguez, the club’s top pitching prospect, has a high chance of earning a rotation spot in Spring Training.

Austin Voth, DL Hall, Mike Baumann and Bruce Zimmermann are also starting candidates. Those who don’t make the rotation will either pitch out of Baltimore’s bullpen or start for Triple-A Norfolk to open 2023.

Virbitsky doesn’t have much professional experience, as he was selected by the A’s in the 17th round of the 2021 MLB Draft out of Penn State University. The 24-year-old posted a 4.63 ERA in 23 appearances (22 starts) between Single-A Stockton and High-A Lansing last year.

To clear room on the 40-man roster for Irvin, the Orioles designated Darwinzon Hernandez for assignment. The left-hander was acquired in a trade with the Red Sox on Jan. 11.