Braves left-handed setup man Eric O'Flaherty visited Dr. James Andrews today, and it was determined that he will indeed undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery tomorrow, as the team had feared, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The news bears extra significance for O'Flaherty because he's in his final year of team control and will be eligible for free agency following the 2013 season. The 28-year-old, who was a lock for a multiyear free agent contract, will almost certainly have to settle for a one-year deal and could end up signing a minor league contract.
Since being selected off waivers from the Mariners prior to the 2009 season, O'Flaherty has been a dominant force coming out of the Atlanta 'pen. He's posted a 1.99 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 to go along with a 54.6 percent ground-ball rate. While he's unquestionably better against left-handed hitters, as one might expect, O'Flaherty has also held right-handed opponents to a sub-.700 OPS four times in the past five seasons.
Lefties Sean Burnett, Javier Lopez and Pedro Feliciano have all signed two-year deals worth $8-9MM in the past few years. O'Flaherty, however, could likely have pushed for a three-year deal in the mold of the contracts signed by Scott Downs ($15MM) or Jeremy Affeldt ($18MM) had he posted another strong season, especially considering his youth relative to the age at which those contracts were signed.
With O'Flaherty's stock plummeting, Downs could once again be the class of the lefty relief market. J.P. Howell and Boone Logan also represent lefties who, like O'Flaherty, will be younger than most of their peers when they hit the free agent market.