Yankees sign lefty reliever Mike O’Connor


If the Yankees insist on finding another left-handed reliever for the 2012 bullpen, I hope it’s along the lines of the player they acquired earlier today. Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have signed LHP Mike O’Connor, presumably to a minor league deal*. He might not have the name value of Damaso Marte or Pedro Feliciano — in fact, I’m sure that most readers hadn’t even heard of him — but that’s the whole point. Identifying a few under-the-radar players could be just as effective as signing a name brand to a multiyear deal.

* Editor’s Note: Joel Sherman confirmed that it is in fact a minor league deal.

Those who do know O’Connor likely caught one of his nine appearances for the Mets in 2011. They called him up in early May, and he served them generally well. Only two runs scored on his watch, and they came in his final two appearances of the year. After allowing a run against the Pirates the Mets optioned him back to AAA, eventually designating him for assignment.

Most of O’Connor’s big league experience came in 2006, when he threw 105 innings in 20 starts and one relief appearance for the Nationals. His 4.80 ERA and 5.37 FIP left plenty to be desired. By 2009 it had become apparent that his low-strikeout ways just weren’t cutting it as a starter, even in the minor leagues. That year he spent time with three different organizations, and by the end was pitching almost exclusively in relief.

In 2010 he caught on with the Mets and made zero starts for the AAA Buffalo Bisons, and his numbers spiked. His strikeout rate jumped to almost a batter per inning while his walk rate remained low. It amounted to a 2.67 ERA and 2.95 FIP in 70.2 innings over 51 outings. The longball gave him something of a problem in 2010, but he still struck out plenty, 9.85 per nine, while walking under three per nine. He struck out eight of the 29 batters he faced in the majors.

As expected, O’Connor was death on lefties in the minors. During his 2010 campaign he still sported a 51.4 percent ground ball rate, 2.03 FIP, and 2.41 xFIP against lefties, striking out 31 in 29.3 innings. While Driveline’s MiLB splits doesn’t have 2011 figures, his page shows a similarly dominant story: 2.70 ERA, 2.09 GB/FB, 30 strikeouts in 23.1 innings vs. LHB. That doesn’t guarantee major league success, but it does demonstrate that he has a leg up when facing same-handed batters.

This signing won’t bowl over anyone. Chances are we’ll never see O’Connor in the Bronx. But he’s an interesting option if the Yankees don’t want to spend big on yet another lefty reliever. They’ve been burned before by that method — even righties on multiyear deals have burned them. O’Connor is an under the radar option who could perhaps step in and complement Boone Logan in the pen. If he doesn’t, there’s no harm done. I sincerely hope the Yankees try to find more bench and bullpen solutions along the lines of O’Connor this winter.

Categories : Pitching


  1. Plank says:

    Is he on the 40 man or is this a minor league deal?

  2. Jose M. Vazquez.. says:

    Maybe he’s found himself and could help sometime in the coming season. Sometimes these signings are successful other times not. I am hoping this is of benefit to us.

  3. MattG says:

    And they said nothing exciting would happen until after Thanksgiving!

  4. Pete Law says:

    Offseason over! Good work Cash!

  5. vin says:

    “Low risk, moderate upside” are my favorite types of LOOGY’s.

  6. Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

    Hey, we all thought Luis Ayala would never sniff the Bronx last year. These signings all serve a purpose.

  7. CMP says:

    I wonder which injured LOOGY is going to get the annual $2 million Yankee endowment this year now that Marte is off the payroll.

  8. MattG says:

    I wonder, why is a guy like this in such a rush to sign a minor-league contract? Doesn’t it make sense for him to wait? I would have to think everyday he can get on a major league roster is absolute gold, and he’s not that close to the major leagues with the Yankees.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Guess it’s a double-edged sword. He’s got an offer now, will another come up? Will it be any better? Maybe he’s taking the sure thing as opposed to hoping something better comes up. In the real world, if I were unemployed, I might do the same thing, even if it’s not my ideal job.

    • Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

      Right now, he’s one Boone Logan away from the majors.

      • MattG says:

        Boone Logan is a pretty good loogy, and O’Connor has NO SHOT at the Yankees’ roster in anything other than a loogy role, right?

        Maybe he believes the Yankees might want two loogys in the ML roster. They say they do. Maybe it is a good fit for him.

        I think most here believe the Yankees should not have two loogys. Two lefties, sure, but one of them has to be able to get out right-handers. Logan does not, and from what is written here, neither does O’Connor.

    • Steve (different one) says:

      Maybe he loved living in NY, and he wants a chance at their major league team?

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Guy has a total of 9 MLB innings in the past three seasons, so I wouldn’t imagine he’s necessarily in a position to be too picky.

  9. thenamestsam says:

    I doubt either he or Logan could get righties out at a steady enough clip to carry the two of them together, but he has value as insurance should Boone go down with an injury.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      Wrong. Logan’s issue is getting lefties out.

      • MattG says:

        No, it’s not. In a very small sample size of a month, maybe a bit more, Logan showed a reverse split. For his career, Logan’s got a 10.13 k/9, 3.30 bb/9 vs lefties, and a 5.42 k/9, 4.66 bb/9 vs righties. That’s a 3.39 FIP vs 5.37. He is the quintessential loogy.

      • thenamestsam says:

        No need to take such a rude tone. I’m assuming you’re basing that on his past years splits, which is a bad way to do it. Career righties are hitting .316/.391/.490 and lefties are hitting .251/.321/.380. To assume that trend has completely reversed based on 185 total plate appearances is silly. Next time I’d do a little research before acting like a jerk.

  10. Raza says:

    I wonder what kind of stuff this guy has. I assume he’s a typical lefty (mid-high 80′s fastball and a slider type of guy).

  11. Plank says:

    What kind of salary does a player like this get?

    Just curious.

  12. New York Piranha says:

    If he works out as well as Garcia and Colon did, I’m all for it. Cashman has this unique talent of picking guys up off the scrap heap.

  13. Jumpin' Jack Swisher says:

    Last year they brought in Andy Sisco, Brian Anderson, Luis Ayala, and a few other guys I don’t even remember anymore. Out of all that, they got one useful piece in Ayala and, as they continued the practice, came up with another useful piece in Cory Wade. O’Connor will be the first of many of these signings.

    But, yes, as a LOOGY, he may be one Boone Logan injury or ineffective spell from the majors, although not being on the 40-man might make the road a bit steeper than that.

  14. Patrick Oliver says:

    I don’t know much about this Mike O’Conner, other than the name. But, Mo Rivera himself was originally a starter, as many forget. So, if this guy can throw strikes and strike people out, who knows.

    • Thomas Cassidy says:

      He’s also 31, not 24. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t see a single game with the Yankees this season.

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