Last week the A’s signed former Atlanta Braves reliever Eric O’Flaherty to a 2 year $7 million contract. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the contract details. The left-handed O’Flaherty will make $1.5 million in 2014 and $5.5 million in 2015. The contract also included some incentives that could boost the overall value of the 2015 number to $9 million. The 2014 amount does not necessarily have to deal with deferred money, but rather O’Flaherty will miss at least the first two months of the season because he is coming off Tommy John surgery.
O’Flaherty is not seen as an over-powering pitcher, but someone who gets a lot of outs with his sinker. His sinker is so well known in Atlanta it even has a highlight reel. That sinker style pitcher fits in with the A’s usual philosophy of pitching. Hard throwing pitchers cost more in the Free Agent and trade markets and it is easier to develop cheap young hard throwing relievers then ones who have the ball put in play against them regularly. However, if you put a strong enough team defensively on the field behind the latter relievers you can create a strong bullpen of groundball pitchers on the cheap.
O’Flaherty will be an interesting case to watch as the season develops. He told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he intends to be officially recovered and rehabbed from Tommy John surgery sometime in late May. When he comes back he will either slot in as the left-handed set up man or he will fill in the hole left by Jerry Blevins departure. The interesting part will be watching how Sean Doolittle begins the season. As I mentioned last week his best friend and mentor departed in the above mentioned Blevins. That could lead to some early bumps in the road as Doolittle learns to adjust. If he does occur those bumps O’Flaherty will seemingly slot into the set up role immediately upon his return.
This signing pushed the A’s bullpen to an elite level. It is even being mentioned among the baseball world as the best in the game. The additions of Jim Johnson, O’Flaherty, Luke Gregerson, and Fernando Abad have given an already strong bullpen more strength. If O’Flaherty can come back completely healthy and return to his career averages of 68 games, 58 innings pitched, 2.85 ERA, and 1.24 WHIP the A’s ultimately will have a huge bargain on their hands.