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Orioles get modest rotation help at deadline, acquire Jack Flaherty from Cardinals

Prospects César Prieto, Drew Rom, and Zack Showalter are headed to St. Louis in return for the veteran right-hander, which was the Birds’ only deal of the day.

St. Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Orioles, for the first time in the Mike Elias era, were buyers at the MLB trade deadline, even if they didn’t make quite the big splash O’s fans were hoping for.

The Birds acquired veteran right-hander Jack Flaherty from the St. Louis Cardinals minutes before the final bell, as first reported by the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. In exchange, the Orioles sent their #16 and #18 prospects, infielder César Prieto and left-hander Drew Rom, to the Cards, as well as Delmarva right-hander Zack Showalter. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report on Prieto and Rom’s inclusion, and MASN’s Roch Kubatko the first on Showalter.

Flaherty, 27, is in his seventh big league season, all with St. Louis. His overall numbers this season aren’t particularly eye-popping; he’s 7-6 in 20 starts, posting a 4.43 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP, and 8.7 K/9. He’s struggled a bit with control, with 4.4 walks per nine, and he’s averaging a bit over five innings per start. Flaherty is eligible for free agency after this season.

A 2014 first-round pick, the 6-foot-4 righty emerged to big league prominence quickly, finishing fifth in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 2018. Flaherty’s breakout year was 2019, when, as a 23-year-old, he posted a 2.75 ERA and a league-leading 0.97 WHIP and 6.2 H/9 in 33 starts for the Cards, finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young vote and 13th in Most Valuable Player.

Flaherty’s career stalled after that, though. He struggled through a subpar year in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, then suffered a litany of oblique and shoulder injuries that limited him to 15 starts in 2021 and just eight in 2022. This year, Flaherty has stayed healthy, settling into a role as a modest, mid- to back-rotation arm rather than the future ace he once appeared to be.

Those hoping the Orioles would acquire a top-of-the-line starter to headline the rotation were left disappointed, especially after trade rumors earlier in the day connected the Orioles to huge names like Justin Verlander (who was traded back to the Astros) and Dylan Cease (who stayed with the White Sox). Likewise, a trade never materialized for either of the Tigers’ available starters, Michael Lorenzen and Eduardo Rodriguez. The former was traded to the Phillies; the latter is staying put in Detroit after vetoing a trade to the Dodgers.

Flaherty’s 97 ERA+ this year would rank third-best among the Orioles’ starters, behind Kyle Bradish (127) and the just-demoted Tyler Wells (110), and just a bit better than Kyle Gibson (92). For now, he’ll slot into the rotation spot vacated by Wells. Flaherty adds another veteran presence to the staff, and, unlike any O’s starter but Gibson, he has postseason experience, pitching three playoff games in 2019 and one in 2020 for the Cardinals.

Is a Kyle Gibson-esque rental the kind of trade that will move the needle for the Orioles in their postseason push? Time will tell. The return package, at least, doesn’t figure to cripple the Birds’ excellent farm system. Prieto is the most notable of the bunch, a 24-year-old Cuban infielder signed as part of the Birds’ 2021-22 draft class. He’s been putting up big numbers in his second year in the organization, batting .349/.393/.475 in 85 games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. Prieto’s path to the majors was blocked in the Orioles organization by the club’s more ballyhooed infield prospects, but he could see the majors soon in St. Louis.

Rom, 23, had success in the lower levels of the minors after the O’s drafted him in the fourth round in 2018, but he’s hit a wall in his first taste of Triple-A this year. Rom has a 5.34 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, and 4.8 BB/9 in 19 games (18 starts). He spent three days in the bigs with the Orioles from May 9-11 but did not appear in a game. And Showalter, 19, was an overslot 11th round pick in 2022 who made his pro debut this season. He has a 2.37 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 12.2 K/9 in nine games for the FCL Orioles and Delmarva.

None of the three players the O’s gave up was ranked among MLB’s top 100 prospects. The Orioles held on to all of their most heralded prospects, including Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby, Heston Kjerstad, and Coby Mayo. With their positional logjams, particularly in the infield, we could still see one or more of those players traded, but not until the offseason.

In a surprising development, the Orioles did not acquire any bullpen help at the deadline, even as the bridge to closer Félix Bautista is looking increasingly shaky and the O’s hope to give Bautista himself some extra rest. The O’s may be hoping that DL Hall, who returned to Triple-A Norfolk today after a stint in the FCL, can fill a relief role down the stretch, perhaps with John Means eventually joining him after his rehab.

What do you think of today’s trade activity for the Orioles, Camden Chatters? Let us know in the comments.