In a bit of a surprising move, the Pirates dealt left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty to the Braves today in return for cash considerations.
The Bucs signed O’Flaherty to a minor league deal this offseason in hopes that he could be a situational lefty in the bullpen and bounce back after a terrible 2015 season. O’Flaherty proved he was more than capable this spring with three earned runs allowed in 9.1 innings for a 2.89 ERA. He struck out eight batters while walking two, but had a .357 average hit against him.
My take on this deal is the Pirates clearly had a crowded bullpen of options. Melancon, Watson, Hughes, Scahill, Caminero, Feliz, Lobstein, Luebke, Vogelsong, O’Flaherty. They obviously preferred Lobstein as the lefty option in the pen as he’s had a great spring with just two runs allowed in 11 innings. Lobstein is younger with more upside than the 31-year-old O’Flaherty and this move basically seals Lobstein’s spot on the Opening Day roster. Two of the rotation spots will go to either Locke, Nicasio, Vogelsong or Luebke and the other two will most likely be in the pen. The buzz of Luebke has been high since a scout told the media that they were “buzzing” about him. I don’t see it because while Luebke’s velocity has been there this spring, he still hasn’t pitched in the Majors in four years. Dealing O’Flaherty looks like it assures that Luebke will be part of this team as well whether in the rotation or bullpen.
The Pirates still have some decisions to make with the roster within the next week, but this trade helps clear part of the picture.