LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Hello from the 2014 Winter Meetings, where the climate is slightly different than it is in the Washington D.C., area.
I was lucky enough to make it down here with only a slight delay on my flight, but others leaving out of D.C. and other points north weren’t so fortunate. People will still be rolling in throughout the night, meaning the crowd in the lobby at the Swan and Dolphin Resort isn’t anywhere near its peak.
I’ve got some minor news to pass along, which is more news because of the level of the Nationals’ interest than the fact that they’re interested at all.
The Nats are “very interested” in left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking.
In their search for a left-handed reliever, the Nats have reportedly kicked the tires on a number of options, including J.P. Howell, Boone Logan and Scott Downs. But it’s unknown which way they would end up leaning or where their priorities were on the lefty reliever front.
O’Flaherty is near the top of their list, per the source, and some within the Nats organization are pushing for him to be a guy general manager Mike Rizzo brings in.
The 28-year-old O’Flaherty underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last May, and likely won’t be able to appear in games until May 2014 at the earliest. But when healthy, he’s proven to be a dominant late-inning option.
O’Flaherty posted a 0.98 ERA over 73 2/3 innings in 2011, striking out 67 and walking 21. Over the last three years, O’Flaherty has put up a 1.45 ERA and a 270 ERA+, and that’s despite throwing just 18 innings in 2013 before needing the season-ending surgery.
The fact that O’Flaherty is coming off major surgery might scare some teams away, but it apparently doesn’t affect how the Nationals view him.
“Tommy John obviously doesn’t scare Rizzo,” the source said.
The Nationals have seen a number of pitchers come back from Tommy John and prove to be incredibly effective at the major league level, including Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. Another left-handed reliever that the Nationals had for a few seasons - Sean Burnett - twice underwent Tommy John surgery.
One issue with potentially signing O’Flaherty is obviously that he won’t be available through at least the season’s first month, meaning the Nationals might need to have another proven left-handed reliever in place in order to feel comfortable without O’Flaherty in the early stages of the season.