NEWS: Eric O'Flaherty signs two-year deal

By Jason Wojciechowski on January 22, 2014 at 9:14 PM

I didn't see that one coming. Were there any rumors? Did anyone talk about this? Speculation, even? But maybe that's par for the course. All we ever get is speculation, not leaks.

In any event, the merits of the signing (which is for 2 years and $7 million) hinge mostly on O'Flaherty's health. He's coming off Tommy John surgery and won't be available until the summer. Everywhere I'm seeing says "July," but who knows. I'll put him down for August 1st and be pleasantly surprised if he's back earlier. So what we're really doing is the Jon Lieber special, signing him now for the 2015 season, giving him a paycheck while he rehabs, and hoping he makes it back. But with the bonus of a few months, maybe, plus the postseason, hopefully, of 2014.

Then again

Fine. Call it July 15th and I'll be happy with earlier.

O'Flaherty is not a hard thrower -- his fastball sits around 91, and his slider comes in at 85. He is, at this point, a one-and-a-half-pitch pitcher. The sinker is the one (82 percent usage before getting hurt in 2013) and the slider is the half (16 percent). That's down from four pitches (two fastballs, slider, change) early in his career, and it's worth noting that he's gotten more effective as his arsenal has simplified. Remember the mantra: pitching is easy.

The question, as posed by Twitter compatriot JD, is

That's a good question! Time for a table. All stats below cover 2009-13.

Player | IP | RA/9 | ERA- | FIP- | K% | BB% | GB% | BABIP | HR/9 | $ | Control - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | - Blevins | 224 2/3 | 3.56 | 80 | 99 | 21.4 | 8.5 | 35.6 | .264 | 1.0 | ~4M? | 2 yrs O'Flaherty | 249 1/3 | 2.35 | 50 | 81 | 19.6 | 8.0 | 58.3 | .274 | 0.4 | =7M | 2 yrs

Blevins will make more money in 2015 than in 2014, but who knows how much more. He's making $1.675 million this year, so I figure a total of $4 million over the two years is fair. And in this case, you'd rather have the guy who's not signed for 2015, in this sense: Blevins doesn't really have any upside, dollars-wise. He's not going to suddenly save 35 games and demand millions in arbitration. And the downside is always the same: gets hurt, doesn't pitch. In that case, the Nats can nontender him and no harm done. O'Flaherty is on the books for 2015 no matter what.

In any event, while Blevins nudges O'Flaherty in whiffs 'n' walks, the newest Athletic has been noticeably more effective at keeping runs off the board, which really highlights the value of groundballs and the power of homers.

Even if O'Flaherty is better, and I think it's fair to conclude that he is overall, is he, coming off injury, a guy you'd rather have over Jerry Blevins at the price? Given that the A's bullpen is otherwise stacked and you're going to have trouble finding high-leverage innings for the entire group as it is? I don't know. The money isn't that big, even for the A's, and even if you combine O'Flaherty with the not entirely necessary Jim Johnson trade and figure the A's added something like $8 or $10 million in salary that they didn't need to, what does that get you? The only free-agent second basemen better than the A's probably have already were Omar Infante, who got $30 million over four years, and Robinson Cano, who got all the rest of the money there is in the world.

Pitching? Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Tim Hudson, Jason Vargas, Phil Hughes. That's who got deals with AAV in the range that the A's added in the bullpen, and after signing Kazmir, are these guys obviously better options than A.J. Griffin? Johnson and Hudson are better pitchers than Griffin if they're healthy. Hughes and Haren are better pitchers at their ceiling, but who knows if they actually are that.

Which really just leaves the bullpen. And hey, if you don't trust Griffin or Dan Straily or if you figure the A's won't be pushing Sonny Gray deep into games, what better way to remedy that than to expect four innings from your starters and then one inning apiece from each of your excellent relievers? Or, hell, three innings if you think Dan Otero can keep doing the ridiculous things he did last year.

So sure, I just talked myself into Eric O'Flaherty. Wasn't that fun?