According to Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed lefty reliever Eric O’Flaherty to a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. The 31-year-old split last season between the Oakland A’s and the New York Mets, posting an 8.10 ERA in 30 innings over 41 appearances. Prior to that, he had a string of five straight seasons with an ERA of 2.50 or less. He missed time last year due to a left shoulder strain and also missed part of 2013 and 2014 due to Tommy John surgery. The Pirates haven’t made this move official yet.
The Pirates have announced that they have signed lefty Cory Luebke to a minor league deal, which also comes with a Spring Training invite. He has not pitched in the majors since 2012, missing extensive time due to a strained left elbow, and then later due to Tommy John surgery. Luebke turns 31 in March. He pitched seven games in the minors last year, which was his first action since April of 2012.
UPDATE 4:59 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…
The Pirates did a lot to boost their left-handed pitching depth with these moves. Luebke has some success in his MLB career, with a combined 3.25 ERA and a 3.21 xFIP between the rotation and bullpen in San Diego. However, he hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 due to two Tommy John surgeries. He pitched seven innings in the minors last year, and should be ready to go this season, although it’s hard to say if he will be back to where he was before the injuries. If they can get the previous version back, then they’ve got a great left-handed relief option, and possibly even starting depth.
O’Flaherty has posted good numbers as a lefty reliever in the majors in the past, although he;s coming off a down year in 2015. Prior to his 2015 struggles, he had a strong career, with a 2.81 ERA and a 3.82 xFIP in 339.1 innings. If he has anything left in the tank, and can get back to those former numbers, then he’s a great option to stash behind Tony Watson as the second lefty.
Prior to these moves, the Pirates looked pretty thin at left-handed relief. They had a few non-roster invitees, but none of them looked like strong options for the majors, instead looking like good depth options out of Triple-A, at best. These two would become the front-runners for the final spot in the bullpen and the left-handed relief role. They both come with question marks, but you’d have to feel better about the lefty relief situation with these two guys in the mix. If one of these two answers his questions, then the Pirates have their second lefty reliever. If both of them answer their questions, the Pirates have some strong depth. And if neither answer their questions, then the Pirates could either turn to one of the other lefty relief options, or just go with one lefty in the bullpen and have someone like John Holdzkom take the final spot.
UPDATE 10:18 PM: The Pirates have officially announced the O’Flaherty signing.