Despite the Irish surname, O'Flaherty was anything but lucky in 2013. Heading for a sizeable payday after the season, he suffered an elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery in May. Now, O'Flaherty will be looking for a short-term deal to re-establish his status as one of the better bullpen lefties in the game.
Who is he?
Eric O'Flaherty is a 28 year old left-hander who was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2003. He broke into the majors with the Mariners in 2006, posting a 4.09 ERA and 2.18 WHIP in 11 innings. His time in Seattle ended after the 2008 season thanks to a 5.91 ERA in 70 total innings. The Atlanta Braves claimed him off waivers and he repaid them with a 1.99 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 249 1/3 innings over the last five seasons.
Why should we care?
Left-handed relief pitching is always in demand, but especially when said lefties are as good as O'Flaherty. His numbers with the Braves speak for themselves, but I'm particularly interested in the jump in strikeout rate. In 2011 and 2012, he struck out 113 batters in 131 innings, well above his career rate of 6.91 batters per nine innings. He also dominates lefties, which should come as no surprise. In his career, left-handed batters have hit .200/.262/.269 against him.
Why should we stay away?
The Tommy John is concerning, but only because 2014 will essentially be a lost season for O'Flaherty. He likely will not be ready to pitch by the start of the season, and it often takes some time after that for a pitcher's velocity to return. He could be an asset for the Tigers down the stretch, however, so his worth this year largely depends on the price of his deal.
Speaking of his deal, Javier Lopez just received $13 million over three years from the San Francisco Giants. While the 36 year old lefty has been a bit better than O'Flaherty, it's hard to see a 28 year old -- even one coming off Tommy John surgery -- getting a contract well below that figure.
Will he end up in Detroit?
We haven't heard any rumors linking O'Flaherty and the Tigers' yet, but given their interest in Brian Wilson it would not surprise me if they pursued another recovering arm to round out the bullpen. Unlike Wilson, however, O'Flaherty won't be ready for the start of the season. That said, a cheap two year deal could turn out to be a bargain for a great relief pitcher who dominates lefties.