The Orioles have acquired right-hander Tom Eshelman from the Phillies in exchange for international bonus allocations, per announcements from both clubs. Eshelman has been assigned to Triple-A Norfolk for the time being.
Eshelman, 24, was a second-round pick by the Astros back in 2015 (when Baltimore GM Mike Elias was with Houston) and landed with the Phillies by way of the Ken Giles trade in the 2016-17 offseason. Eshelman opened the season in Double-A Reading and struggled to a 6.28 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, but he did so with strong K/BB numbers that led metrics like FIP (3.79) and xFIP (2.98) to forecast better days on the horizon. The Phillies bumped him up to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and Eshelman responded well. In four starts there (26 innings), he’s notched a 2.77 ERA with a 23-to-5 K/BB ratio and a 48.6 percent ground-ball rate.
While Eshelman is Norfolk-bound for the time being, it’s not difficult to see him emerging as an option at the Major League level in the near future. Between the 2017-19 seasons, he’s made a total of 48 starts at the Triple-A level, so he has plenty of upper-minors experience. And the Orioles’ rotation has performed dreadfully as a collective unit, posting a 5.42 ERA that ranks 26th in the Majors as well as an MLB-worst 5.87 FIP.
Manager Brandon Hyde said about three weeks ago that the front office had been exploring various avenues to add some rotation depth to the organization, and acquiring Eshelman certainly fits that mold. He wasn’t considered to be among the top prospects in the Phillies’ system but gives the Orioles the type of fairly advanced arm that they’re lacking in the upper levels of a farm system that’s still being rebuilt (and will be for the next few years).
Currently, the Orioles are deploying Andrew Cashner, Dylan Bundy, John Means, David Hess and Gabriel Ynoa, but the latter two of that quintet have struggled in particular. Veteran righty Alex Cobb remains sidelined by a back injury, while Nate Karns is on the shelf indefinitely due to a flexor strain. The alternatives in Triple-A are collectively underperforming, as each of Josh Rogers, Luis Ortiz and Chandler Shepherd has an ERA over 7.00.
As for the Phillies, they’ll add a bit of money — no amount was specified — to add a few more international players to their minor league ranks in the coming days. The 2018-19 international signing period comes to a close on June 15, but this swap should give them more funds to add a bit more talent to the lower levels of the system. International signing slots need to be traded in $250K increments, so the Phils picked up at least that much in this deal — and quite possibly more, given Eshelman’s proximity to the Majors.