Billy Beane

A’s Add More Bullpen Depth, Sign Eric O’Flaherty

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The entire baseball world is buzzing today about the Yankees inking prized Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a blockbuster contract, but apparently Billy Beane has other things on his mind.

In yet another under-the-radar move, the Oakland A’s signed left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty to a two-year, $7 million contract on Wednesday, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

eoSigning O’Flaherty comes with a bit of a risk, as he underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow last May, and is expected to return in July of this year.

However, there’s no denying that he will be valuable to the A’s when healthy. The 28-year-old veteran established himself as one of the top left-handed relievers in the league before the injury, recording a 1.68 ERA in 193 innings from 2010-2013 with the Braves.

While the other teams in the AL West have been bulking up on hitters (Robinson Cano to the Mariners, Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo to the Rangers), the A’s have been re-tooling their bullpen. O’Flaherty will join Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson as the A’s key relief additions this offseason.

With O’Flaherty in the picture, here’s how the A’s bullpen looks at the moment:

  • RHP Jim Johnson
  • LHP Sean Doolittle
  • RHP Luke Gregerson
  • RHP Ryan Cook
  • RHP Dan Otero
  • RHP Jesse Chavez
  • LHP Eric O’Flaherty
  • RHP Evan Scribner
  • RHP Fernando Abad
  • RHP Fernando Rodriguez

In baseball, good pitching usually beats good hitting, and that may be how the A’s are looking to respond to the offseason moves by their division rivals. They may not have the money to sign Prince Fielder, but they do have enough to sign a guy who can get him out (Fielder is 1-for-7 in his career against O’Flaherty).

Last season, the back of the bullpen in Doolittle, Cook, and Grant Balfour proved to be extremely effective. Now, the A’s have essentially replaced Balfour with Johnson and added two dynamite relievers in Gregerson and O’Flaherty. If Doolittle and Cook continue to develop, the A’s will have as solid a bullpen as any other team in baseball.

Is signing O’Flaherty a gamble? Absolutely, considering that he is recovering from Tommy John surgery and there is no way of telling if and when he will be back to full strength. But after seeing the Yankees guarantee $155 million to a pitcher who has not yet thrown a single pitch in the major leagues, it’s much easier to justify the A’s spending $7 million on O’Flaherty, a proven veteran who could wind up being a huge steal and a core piece in their bullpen.

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