Mets add lefty reliever O'Flaherty from A's
While season ERA is high, veteran has been tough on left-handed hitters
MIAMI -- Suddenly in legitimate playoff contention, the Mets are attempting to patch every last hole on their roster. To that end, they traded for a lefty relief specialist late Tuesday night, acquiring Eric O'Flaherty and cash from the A's for a player to be named or cash.
O'Flaherty, 30, had a 5.91 ERA in 25 games for the A's, but he was holding left-handed batters to a .186 average and a .495 OPS. Unlike Alex Torres, whom the Mets designated for assignment to make room on the roster, O'Flaherty gives the Mets the type of classic left-on-left specialist they have lacked since Jerry Blevins hit the disabled list April 21.
"We're in a position now where we're trying to win every day," assistant general manager John Ricco said following the Mets' 5-1 win over the Marlins. "It was an opportunity to get a veteran lefty. We saw a lot of him over the years with the Braves. He's having a real good year against left-handed hitters, so he kind of checked all the boxes to make a deal."
The Mets entered this season with three lefty relievers on their roster, acquiring Torres and Blevins late in Spring Training to complement Rule 5 Draft pick Sean Gilmartin. But Blevins fractured his throwing arm in April and only recently began throwing again, while Torres was ineffective -- lefties tagged him for a .406 on-base percentage -- all summer. Like Torres, Gilmartin relies heavily on a changeup, making him better against right-handed batters.
Given all that, as well as the club's uncertainty over Blevins' return date, the Mets have been seeking lefty relief help for weeks. Ricco acknowledged that the Mets have no timetable for Blevins, even if it's reasonable to expect him back at some point this season.
"It's been this long," Ricco said. "He's progressing, but we still don't have a firm schedule to see him back here. We'll see. This is still a move, I think, regardless we would have made."
A 10-year veteran with brief playoff experience, O'Flaherty owns a career 2.99 ERA with the Mariners, Braves and A's. He had established himself as one of the game's top lefty specialists before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2013, posting a 1.99 ERA over five seasons. O'Flaherty's former (and now current) teammate Tyler Clippard referred to him as a "sinker-slider guy" with a "bulldog mentality," still working his way back from Tommy John.
Since surgery, O'Flaherty has proven inconsistent, but his average velocity is up nearly a full mph since April. His ERA has dropped in kind.
"I feel like it took him a little while to get settled in throughout the season," Clippard said. "But the last two or three weeks of playing with him in Oakland, he looked like himself. His velocity was one or two ticks higher than it was previously in the year. His sinker was back, throwing sliders for strikes, and it was the Eric O'Flaherty that I saw in Atlanta, as opposed to earlier in the year when he was just kind of scuffling."
The Mets, who have won five consecutive games, expect O'Flaherty to join them in time for Wednesday's series finale against the Marlins.
"Given the way this club has played and where we are right now," Ricco said, "we want to make sure we're in position to win as many games as we can."