The Baltimore Orioles Trade for Cole Irvin
The Baltimore Orioles have completed their sixth trade of the offseason in a move for LHP Cole Irvin. The deal sends SS prospect Darell Hernaiz to the Oakland Athletics, in return for both Irvin and RHP Kyle Virbitsky. To make space for the incoming Irvin, the Orioles DFA’d LHP Darwinzon Hernandez.
Hernaiz was drafted straight out of high school in the 5th round of the 2019 MLB draft. Hernaiz is a talented athlete who flashed potential at the rookie level of minor league ball, and reached AA Bowie in 2022. In his time with Bowie, Hernaiz posted a paltry slashline of .113/.186/.189. However, these disappointing numbers could be a result of small sample size – Hernaiz only got 13 games at the AA level before the season’s expiration. Primarily a contact hitter, Hernaiz slots in at 18th on the A’s top prospect list.
Irvin, who will be 29 by opening day, posted a 3.98 ERA in 2022. In order of usage, his pitch mix consists of a 4-seam fastball, a sinker, a curveball, a changeup, a rarely-utilized cutter, and a seldom used slider. Despite most frequently relying on his 4-seamer, it clocked in at a relatively low average of 90.7 MPH. (For comparison, the league average for 4-seam velocity is 93.9 MPH)
The story of Cole Irvin’s slider is an interesting one. When he made his major league debut in 2019, Irvin’s slider was his third most utilized pitch, with 20% of his pitches being sliders that year. However, his slider usage has diminished each year since, and in 2022 he only threw one slider all season. The decline in slider usage has coincided with an increase in curveball usage, and the development of a sinker and a cutter.
In addition to his slightly above-average ERA, Irvin boasts a WHIP of 1.16 – a figure similar to pitchers like Pablo Lopez (1.17) and Jose Urquidy (1.17). Frankly, Irvin hovers around league average in nearly every pitching stat. His whiff percentage (19.9%) and zone contact percentage (84.1%) are both below league average, while his chase percentage (30.4%) is slightly above average.
Additionally, the left-handed hurler will likely benefit from the cavern that resides in left field of Camden Yards. According to Baseball Savant, only three other ballparks in MLB would’ve held in more of Cole Irvin’s 2022 home run balls than OPACY.
The acquisition of Irvin likely ends the Orioles’ pursuit for starting pitching this offseason given the addition of RHP Kyle Gibson in December. The combination of Irvin and Gibson should provide a back-of-rotation innings-eating machine. In 2022, Gibson managed 167.2 IP, while Irvin put in 181.0 innings of work.
Despite his high innings count, Irvin has less mileage on his arm than a pitcher like Michael Wacha, who the O’s were reportedly in contact with as potential free agent signee. Cole Irvin has also historically been lucky with injuries. Discounting the minor issue here and there, he has remained healthy throughout his career. While Irvin likely won’t be a massive difference-maker, the depth he adds is valuable for the O’s who have multiple starters with injury concerns.
The other piece the O’s received, 24-year old Kyle Virbitsky, is a project arm. The 6’7 Virbitsky was drafted by the Athletics in the 17th round of the 2021 draft. In 2022, he made it to the A’s High-A affiliate the Lansing Lugnuts, where he made seven starts and recorded an ERA of 4.31. Expect Virbitsky to debut for either Aberdeen or Bowie depending on how the O’s choose to use him.