The Oakland A's busy off-season had grown quiet over the past month, but the A's are making some noise once again. Although certainly not the biggest baseball news of the day (that goes to the Yankees and their newest free agent signing), the A's acquisition of left-hander Eric O'Flaherty should not be over-looked.
According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, the A's have agreed to terms with O'Flaherty on a two-year deal worth $7 million. Performance bonuses can bring that deal up to $10 million. O'Flaherty was a dominant reliever for the Atlanta Braves from 2009 through last year, although he missed much of last season with an elbow injury. That injury required Tommy John surgery, and O'Flaherty is expected to miss the first three months of the 2014 season.
When O'Flaherty does return to the mound, he could give the A's the most potent lefty-lefty late-inning relief combination in baseball along with left-hander Sean Doolittle. Over the past five seasons with Atlanta, O'Flaherty had a 1.99 ERA in 249.1 innings pitched. He allowed just 207 hits and posted a 199:81 K:BB with 11 homeruns allowed.
In 2011, O'Flaherty made major league history by posting an 0.98 ERA in 78 appearances (73.2 innings) for the Braves. He was the first pitcher in MLB history to post a sub-1.00 ERA in 70 or more appearances. O'Flaherty had a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings before injuring his elbow in mid-May last season.
The soon-to-be 29-year-old was originally a member of the Seattle Mariners and he made his major league debut against the A's on June 7, 2003. O'Flaherty never made his mark with Seattle, but his career took off after being claimed off of waivers by the Braves before the 2009 season.
O'Flaherty joins a revamped A's bullpen. Gone are stalwarts Grant Balfour, Pat Neshek and Jerry Blevins and in are newcomers Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson and Fernando Abad. The A's are also expected to get back reliever Fernando Rodriguez, who had Tommy John surgery at the beginning of last season, sometime mid-season. The A's will return Doolittle, Ryan Cook, Dan Otero, Evan Scribner and Jesse Chavez from a bullpen that has been one of the best in baseball the past two seasons. New acquisitions Drew Pomeranz and Josh Lindblom and prospect Arnold Leon may also factor into the bullpen picture.
To make room for O'Flaherty on the roster, the A's have designated outfielder Corey Brown for assignment. The A's acquired Brown earlier this off-season after he had been designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals. Brown spent the past four seasons in the Nationals' chain, but he was a supplemental first-round pick by the A's in 2007. The Oklahoma State product was hampered by injuries in 2013, but he still managed to hit 19 homeruns in 107 Triple-A games. He also had a double and a homer in 12 official at-bats for the Nationals. Brown hit 25 homers at the Triple-A level in 2012.