A’s Sign Reliever O’Flaherty

In another move to solidify a revamped bullpen for 2013, the Oakland A’s reportedly signed left-handed relief pitcher Eric O’Flaherty to a two-year, $7 million deal this morning. O’Flaherty had been with the Atlanta Braves since the 2009 season, working almost exclusively as a LOOGY (or, Left Handed One Out Guy), tasked with retiring tough left-handed hitters in the late innings. He becomes the latest new addition to an A’s bullpen that already includes new faces Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson.

Over the past few seasons, O’Flaherty has established himself as one of the best left-handed relievers in the league. From 2009 through 2013 with Atlanta, he posted a microscopic 1.99 ERA. He proved to be incredibly durable, as well, averaging 69 appearances per season from 2009 through 2012. That consistency has made O’Flaherty a standout, as many middle relievers tend to have wild swings in performance from year to year.

The A’s will be bringing him in to face the tough lefties in the American League, of course, and when it comes to getting left-handed hitters out, there are few better than O’Flaherty. Over the past three years, O’Flaherty has held same-sided hitters to an almost unfair .156/.212/.207 batting line, with one home run surrendered (Carlos Pena got him in 2011). For his career, O’Flaherty has held lefty hitters to a line of .200/.262/.269. Since 2010, he has also held right-handers to a .662 OPS, so he’s not completely one-dimensional, either.

There’s one caveat, though. O’Flaherty will be out until roughly the All-Star Break recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent last May. O’Flaherty only managed to toss eighteen innings in 2013 before being sidelined. The A’s are taking a mild risk in banking on a full recovery from the surgery, and are more or less paying him for a year-and-a-half of service. However, if he does return to his 2009-13 levels of effectiveness, the A’s will have netted one of the best relief specialists in the league at a below-market rate.

When O’Flaherty does return from the injury, he figures to join Sean Doolittle in forming a formidable duo of left-handed relievers in the A’s bullpen. He should also serve as a nice replacement for Jerry Blevins, who was traded to the Washington Nationals in December.