A's trade ace Cole Irvin to Orioles as roster gutting continues


If you play baseball in Oakland and you enjoy a modicum of success, you have an expiration date with the A’s.

Southpaw Cole Irvin’s? Jan. 26, 2023.

Live On-Air
Ask Your Smart Speaker to Play 95 7 The Game
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

The A’s announced Thursday they have traded their left-handed ace to the Baltimore Orioles, along with minor league right-hander Kyle Virbitsky, in exchange for minor league infielder Darell Hernaiz.

The A’s quietly acquired Irvin for cash considerations from the Philadelphia Phillies in September 2020 and he made his way up the ranks in Oakland’s rotation. After the A’s traded away Chris Bassitt, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas last year, Irvin ascended into the role of de facto ace, as Paul Blackburn was injured after making the All-Star Game.

Irvin is the only player to make at least 30 starts for Oakland each of the past two seasons. He finished 2022 with a 3.98 ERA and 4.21 FIP in 30 starts, pitching a team-high 181 innings. Irvin wasn’t spectacular but he was a reliable innings-eater. The 28-year-old was a control freak, issuing just 36 walks compared to 128 strikeouts, and was a quick worker on the mound.

Irvin was set to make the MLB minimum this season in his final year of pre-arbitration, so his price tag wasn’t the issue here. Oakland is going all in on its next rebuild and has 10 pitchers competing for a rotation spot – including free-agent signees Shintaro Fujinami and Drew Rucinski, and top prospects Ken Waldichuk and Kyle Muller. Lefty A.J. Puk will be stretched out to be a starter to compete with others like Blackburn, James Kaprielian, JP Sears, Adrian Martinez and Adam Oller.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like much of a return for Irvin.

Hernaiz is 21 and got a sniff of the Double-A level last year, but he’s ranked by MLB.com as the Orioles’ No. 16 prospect, so he’s not a surefire thing. The Puerto Rican played 58 games at shortstop, 24 at second base and 22 at third base. He slashed .273/.341/.438 with 12 homers and 62 RBI while also stealing 32 bases. Hernaiz is still a year or two off from making the big leagues.

Hernaiz fits into the mold of the utility position players the A’s have brought to the organization this year, as they also signed free agent veterans Aledmys Diaz and Jace Peterson this offseason.

For those counting at home, the A’s have now traded away eighty percent of their starting rotation in the past 12 months. Not to mention they shipped away first baseman Matt Olson, third baseman Matt Chapman and catcher Sean Murphy. An absolute gutting of a franchise for a fan base that’s grown accustomed to roster razing.

Oakland has been active in free agency with some low-key moves, though. On Tuesday, the A’s reportedly agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal with first baseman/designated hitter Jesus Aguilar. The 32-year-old slashed .235/.281/.379 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs in 507 at-bats this season with the Orioles and Miami Marlins. Oakland now has a makeshift stable of free-agent veterans with Aguilar, Diaz, Peterson, Fujinami and Rucinski added this offseason.

The A’s will roll out a bunch of young talent, too, with players like catcher Shea Langeliers, outfielder Esteury Ruiz, Waldichuk and Muller leading the next wave.

At this point, you have to figure that the A’s will shop veteran outfielder Ramon Laureano. They might want him to build up his value going into the trade deadline, but it seems like Oakland is already looking ahead to 2024.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images