November 30, 2012 at 3:04 pm by Ben Duronio under Atlanta Braves
With the acquisition of Jordan Walden, the Braves almost certainly have the best bullpen in baseball at this point in time — at least on paper. They have a plethora of power arms that can get both righties and lefties out, and to me it looks like moving the most expensive piece who is at the peak of his value would be a wise decision.
Let’s take a look at what a few relievers brought back to their respective teams in trades in the past 12 months.
Andrew Bailey gets traded from Oakland to Boston, with the A’s acquiring Josh Reddick and two prospects
Mark Melancon was traded from Houston to Boston, with the Astros acquiring Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland.
Jordan Walden is traded from Los Angeles to Atlata, with the Angels acquiring Tommy Hanson.
Those are three rather big returns for relievers, especially when you consider Walden was on the DL for a month last year and was worth just half a win. Melancon was coming off a solid year as the closer in Houston, but that was only his first season in the majors. Bailey was coming off of back-to-back seasons with fewer than 50 innings pitched due to injuries. The year in which he pitched a full season he won the Rookie of the Year award, but he was a risky asset at the time he was traded.
While relievers are volatile, O’Flaherty has been rather steady in Atlanta. That does not mean that he is able to avoid the traditional volatility most relievers run into, but just means that he has been able to avoid it so far. Much like Jonny Venters last year, O’Flaherty could run into some struggles that really hurt his season — which will be his last in Atlanta as he enters free agency next year.
While O’Flaherty has been consistent, the last point I made — about him being a free agent next year — is important. The others were cost controlled, so they brought back a very solid return. To me, that just evens out the package though. O’Flaherty has been better and more consistent than all three of those relievers, and if he were to be put on the table a ton of teams would be begging for his services. With a price tag expected to be right around $4m, the Braves can clear some payroll, take a slight hit to the strength of the bullpen — which as noted is likely already the strongest in the league — and acquire prospects or other notable assets in return. This would free the Braves to spend a bit more in left field, which could be important as the outfield chips continue to fall. Signing a guy like Nick Swisher may only be possible if Eric O’Flaherty is traded, and it would be a shame if the Braves cannot make a deal they want to make because of a reliever in his final arbitration year taking up payroll unnecessarily.
Trading O’Flaherty is a wise call for a number of reasons, and the Braves have been quick to act so far this offseason. I do not necessarily expect the team to move him, but I imagine they are more than willing to find out what exactly his market looks like.