The MLB trade deadline has come and gone, and the Orioles, after reportedly showing interest in nearly every available starter and relief pitcher on the market, ended up making just one deal, acquiring Jack Flaherty from the Cardinals.
Camden Chatters’ general feeling about the trade so far seems to amount to, “meh, OK.” Flaherty hasn’t resembled a top-of-the-rotation starter in four years, but slides into the Birds’ starting staff as a capable veteran with postseason experience who will keep his team in the game more often than not. And the price wasn’t exorbitant, with the O’s giving up an infielder in César Prieto who profiles as a utility guy, a lefty in Drew Rom who has taken a step back at Triple-A, and a 19-year-old who has potential but is far from the majors in Zack Showalter. It’s a trade that might not have a big impact for the Orioles but is unlikely to come back to haunt them.
The baseball media’s assessment of the deal pretty much echoes that sentiment. Fox Sports’ Jordan Shusterman, one half of the Cespedes Family BBQ duo, graded the Orioles’ trade as a B-, writing, “Flaherty might not have been the best arm available for Baltimore to try to land, but he’ll certainly slot into a rotation in dire need of some upside and innings as the Orioles try to hang on to first place in the toughest division in baseball.”
Two writers from The Athletic, Grant Brisbee and former O’s beat writer Britt Ghiroli, gave the O’s grades of B+ and B-, respectively, for the Flaherty acquisition. Writes Brisbee: “If he’s healthy, as he seems to be, he’s a perfectly reasonable option for the Orioles. Considering the return they gave up compared to what other teams gave up for notable starters, he might have been the best option.”
Ghiroli was more critical of the Orioles’ inaction, labeling the Flaherty acquisition “a lackluster move at best.” She argues that the O’s should have struck while the iron was hot and made a bolder move to push an already successful 2023 club over the top.
Is it better than doing nothing, which hardly seemed like an option a day ago? Sure. But it’s not a particularly inspired move, though the Orioles do hold on to their upper echelon of prospects, which general manager Mike Elias made clear is a priority as the organization looks at 2023 as just the start of their competitive window. Still, who are we to deem when windows start? This Orioles team is good now.
FanGraphs’ Jay Jaffe agrees that the O’s should have done more, writing, “one would have expected a team in the Orioles’ position to come away from the trade deadline either with higher quality or greater quantity than just Flaherty, who at this stage is a quasi-LAIM (League Average Innings Muncher).” Jaffe opines that the Orioles would have been better off acquiring Verlander or even Flaherty’s former Cardinals teammate, Jordan Montgomery, whom St. Louis traded to Texas two days earlier.
As The Baltimore Banner’s Jon Meoli writes, though, blockbuster trades aren’t exactly part of Mike Elias’s repertoire. The club prefers to make more measured, lower-upside but lower-risk moves that allow them to keep as much of their young talent as possible. “Their value-driven decision making and high opinion of their top prospects’ future worth always meant they were only going to go as far as a rental,” Meoli writes. “Elias was able to help the 2023 team, both in this deal and last week’s acquisition of reliever Shintaro Fujinami from Oakland, without losing much from a stocked farm system.”
Meanwhile, The Athletic’s Keith Law — who, as we all know, hates your favorite team, whichever one it is — sees the trade as a win for the Orioles, especially if they’re able to use their player development magic to harness Flaherty’s talented but inconsistent arm.
The extension’s there, but the command isn’t, and the stuff is down as well. That could be an opportunity for the Orioles, who’ve had success with helping pitchers get more out of their arms in the last two years, but adds some risk. Even as is, he’s probably the Orioles’ second-best starter right now, though, and definitely sets them up better for a playoff series.
It’s been a long time since the Orioles were in a legitimate position to be buyers at the trade deadline. I suppose it wasn’t realistic for Elias, in his first opportunity to do so in Baltimore, to pull off a blockbuster. A marginal but sensible upgrade like Flaherty will have to suffice. And this Orioles team, now a season-best 25 games over .500, might not need much help after all.