The Rangers took Max Scherzer. The Astros acquired Justin Verlander. The Rays added Aaron Civale and two other pitchers.
The Orioles didn’t swing that big. But they did add another starter for the stretch run, sneaking in a deal right before MLB’s deadline on Tuesday.
The Orioles acquired RHP Jack Flaherty from the Cardinals, giving them a veteran arm to add to their rotation and some much-needed depth. Flaherty, 27, has seven years of major league experience. He has a 4.43 ERA in 20 starts this season. Baltimore is sending three minor leaguers to St. Louis: left-handed pitcher Drew Rom, infielder César Prieto and right-handed pitcher Zack Showalter.
Flaherty will be a free agent after the 2023 season.
“We think this team has what it takes to go deep,” general manager Mike Elias said. “This bolsters us. It gives us a lot of security and a boost to the rotation down the stretch.”
Baltimore tried to add a reliever, Elias said, but was not able to make a deal. With an extra starter, the Orioles have the flexibility to move someone to the bullpen to provide additional relief.
“As we went into this deadline period, we were almost exclusively focused on pitching,” Elias said. “Our pursuits, they have been up and down the entire trade spectrum. We are very pleased that this is where we landed. ... Jack has a lot of good experience in a good organization.”
The Orioles, the best team in the American League, have been waiting for this moment. They’ve gone through the rebuild and come out on the other side. And now they are buyers at the deadline for the first time since 2017.
The market was competitive, favoring sellers. The Orioles were willing to deploy their farm system to get a big name, even ready to part with some of their prized top-100 prospects. Elias said there were only a few players not on the table, the team making 2023 a priority while trying to balance out its long-term goals.
“We came close to some things. We took some very big swings,” Elias said.
The Orioles were in communication with the Cardinals about multiple pitchers but had to wait for St. Louis to decide if it was going to be a seller. Flaherty will slot into a rotation that is showing signs of being overworked.
Tyler Wells — in his first full season since having Tommy John surgery in 2019 — is in Double-A de-loading in hopes that rest will help him overcome recent struggles. Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez and Dean Kremer are all expected to exceed their season highs in innings pitched. The Orioles have an immediate spot open with Wells optioned and could go to a six-man rotation or work in breaks for other starters once Wells returns.
Flaherty, though, is also at risk of being strained. He has not pitched a full major league season since 2019, when he placed fourth in Cy Young voting. He’s pitched 109 innings, not far behind Wells (113 2/3), Kremer (119 2/3) and Gibson (133).
“We’ll see where this goes,” Elias said. “I think the strength-in-numbers component is an important part of this, which helps. I just expect that he’s going to be a big help for us down the stretch.”
Flaherty brings playoff experience, unlike most of the young Orioles’ clubhouse. He’s started four postseason games, including three during the Cardinals’ run to the NLCS in 2019. He throws a four-pitch mix, with a low-90s, four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and cutter.
The Orioles made one move to help their bullpen earlier, acquiring Shintaro Fujinami from Oakland last month. He gave up three runs in his first two outings but has settled down, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings in three games since.
There are also reinforcements within the organization, if rehab schedules go as planned. DL Hall, their top pitching prospect, reported to Triple-A after a month in Sarasota rebuilding. He’ll be used as a reliever initially but has starting experience. John Means should start an assignment in early August. His role, if he makes it back this year, is to be determined. Mychal Givens and Austin Voth are expected back before the end of the regular season.
The Orioles hold on to their faith that they have the pieces in place — or on the way back from injuries — to make a playoff run. Adding Flaherty at the deadline will give them a little wiggle room.
Only time will tell if they did enough.
“We are obviously out of our rebuild,” Elias said. “We are very competitive. But a step we have yet to take is to make the playoffs. Our goal is to win the division.”