On Wednesday, the Oakland A’s made yet another deal with a pitcher. This time it was with 28-year-old Eric O’Flaherty. O’Flaherty played with the Atlanta Braves last year until mid-May when he went on the DL with a strained left elbow. Four day later, he underwent season-ending “Tommy John” surgery. So why would the Athletics make a two year and $7 million dollar deal with an injured pitcher?
Before his injury, O’Flaherty made 19 appearances, had a 2.50 ERA, and a 3-0 record. Additionally, he has the lowest ERA for relievers who have pitched 125 innings or more with a 1.45 ERA over the last three years. Finally, over his eight years in the MLB, he has accumulated a 2.85 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. It is clear from his statistics that he is a consistent and sharp pitcher.
Since O’Flaherty is a reliever, he will have to vie for pitching time against the Oakland A’s stacked bullpen including Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, and Dan Otero. It takes about nine to ten months to fully recover from Tommy John surgery, which would mean that O’Flaherty should be ready to pitch by mid-March at the latest if everything goes well. However, I assume that the Oakland A’s will only use him sporadically and for short periods of time during the 2014 season in order to not injure his elbow again.
Even though the recovery time from this elbow surgery is long, assistant General Manager David Frost told ESPN that he is excited about acquiring this left-handed pitcher and believes that O’Flaherty is one of the best left-handers in the MLB. However, we will need to wait to see O’Flaherty’s skills in person when he is fully healthy.
Given his stats, I think he is a great addition to the A’s bullpen, especially since the A’s bullpen is dominated by mostly right-handed pitchers. However, there is always the fear that his surgery could negatively effect his pitching even after a full recovery.
But the Oakland A’s have seen Grant Balfour after Tommy John surgery and the success he had as their closer in Oakland. Additionally, there were 124 pitchers in the MLB in 2013 that had undergone this type of elbow surgery and a good majority of them pitched regularly for their teams. With the immense talent that O’Flaherty had prior to this surgery and that fact that Oakland had no qualms about signing him, I believe he will be successful in the seasons to come.