The New York Mets bolstered their bullpen with the acquisition of left-handed relief pitcher Eric O’Flaherty and cash from the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday evening in exchange for a player to be named later. To make room for O’Flaherty on the roster, the Mets designated lefty reliever Alex Torres for assignment, who has been largely ineffective in neutralizing opponent’s left-handed hitters.
So who exactly is the 30-year-old pitcher that just followed his fellow Oakland teammate Tyler Clippard to New York?
O’Flaherty was a sixth-round pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2003 from Walla Walla High School in Washington. The local kid made good on his promise when the Mariners called him up in 2006 appearing in 15 games during his rookie campaign. His breakout year came in 2007, when he posted a 7-1 record in 56 appearances for the Mariners.
A back injury in 2008 quickly changed his fortunes, limiting him to only seven appearances. His ERA ballooned to 20.25 and his season was over by June. The Mariners waived him and he signed with the Braves for the 2009 campaign.
Mixing in a repertoire that included a fastball in the low 90s, a slider, cutter, and a change-up, O’Flaherty began a five-year run starting in 2009 as one of the most effective left-handed relievers in the National League. From 2009-2013, he held opponents to a .228 batting average, while going 13-7 with a 1.99 ERA.
When O’Flaherty became a free agent at the close of the 2013 season, the Oakland Athletics stepped in and signed him to a two-year, $7 million contract despite undergoing Tommy John surgery. Unavailable until July, 2014, O’Flaherty returned to form and finished 2014 strongly with a 2.25 ERA in 20 appearances.
With a full season ahead of him, O’Flaherty had tremendous expectations to prove he could regain his form over an entire season. Disappointingly, he struggled in 2015 with the Athletics, indicated by his 5.91 ERA in 25 appearances, which earned him his release by Oakland last week. After clearing waivers, the Mets were intrigued by how he held left-handed batters to a .186 batting average in 50 plate appearances. Ever since the early season injury to reliever Jerry Blevins, the Mets had difficulty finding a left-handed replacement in the bullpen. O’Flaherty’s acquisition from Oakland fit the recipe the Mets were searching for.
“It was an opportunity to get a veteran lefty,” said Mets assistant general manager John Ricco. “We’ve seen a lot of him over the years with the Braves. He’s having a real good year with left-handed hitters. He checked all the boxes.”