Orioles acquire lefty starting pitcher Cole Irvin from Oakland

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While this offseason has been far from the “liftoff” many fans anticipated, the Orioles did raise the floor of their 2023 starting rotation on Thursday.

General manager Mike Elias acquired left-hander Cole Irvin and minor-league pitcher Kyle Virbitsky from Oakland in exchange for infield prospect Darell Hernaiz. Turning 29 next week, Irvin was the focal point of the deal for Baltimore after pitching to a career-best 3.98 ERA in 30 starts covering 181 innings, which ranked 12th in the AL last season. The lefty averaged just 1.8 walks per nine innings last season and logged 15 quality starts for a second straight year despite averaging only 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings over his major league career.

In his lone start against the Orioles last season, Irvin allowed one run and six hits over five innings and didn’t factor in the decision of a 2-1 victory for the Athletics last April.

While Irvin’s percentile rankings, slightly below average ERA, and home-road splits are underwhelming, he remains under club control through 2026 and has shown the ability to eat innings at a competitive rate. That’s something the Orioles won’t take for granted as they’ll depend on the upside of young pitchers such as Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall — who combined to pitch just 173 2/3 professional frames last year — to help them take the next step in 2023. Irvin and fellow veteran newcomer Kyle Gibson combined to pitch 348 2/3 innings last season while no other returning Baltimore starter logged more than 125 1/3 frames in 2022.

With pitchers and catchers set to report to Sarasota in a few weeks, the Orioles do have a deeper pool of viable rotation candidates despite the additions of Irvin and Gibson not offering the kind of upside many desired. After coming to terms on a one-year deal with right-hander Austin Voth earlier Thursday, Baltimore returns five pitchers who made at least 17 starts and posted no worse than a 4.90 ERA in 2022, a list including Kyle Bradish, Tyler Wells, Dean Kremer, Spenser Watkins, and Austin Voth. The Orioles are also expecting to welcome back 2022 Opening Day starter John Means — who underwent Tommy John surgery last April — at some point during the 2023 campaign.

While the Orioles’ playoff hopes may still hinge on the continued development of Rodriguez, Bradish, and Hall as well as an effective return by Means, Irvin and Gibson are the kinds of veteran arms that can help keep a young club afloat through inevitable rough patches or stretches of health concerns.

Of course, Elias had to give up something of value for a controllable major league starter as MLB.com had ranked the 21-year-old Hernaiz as Baltimore’s No. 16 prospect. The 2019 fifth-round pick posted a promising .779 on-base plus slugging percentage across three levels concluding at Double-A Bowie last season, but Hernaiz was unlikely to have a path to a starting major league role in Baltimore with the organization having no shortage of infield talent ahead of him in the pecking order.

Virbitsky, 24, pitched to a combined 4.63 ERA and averaged 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings between Low-A Stockton and High-A Lansing last season.

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