After watching him serve as the backbone of the bullpen over the last four years, the Orioles couldn’t afford to let Darren O’Day get away.
According to CBS Sports, Baltimore has agreed to a four-year, $31 million contract with the right-handed relief pitcher. The race for the 33-year-old’s services was believed to be down to Baltimore and Washington, but the Orioles’ willingness to offer a fourth year and his familiarity with the organization appeared to be the difference. O’Day’s wife, Elizabeth Prann, is also a TV reporter based out of Washington, further reinforcing his preference to remain in the area.
However, O’Day himself made it clear on Sunday afternoon that the deal has not been finalized as he still needs to take a physical, something that isn’t always a formality given the Orioles’ history with free agents.
Contrary to the news, I have not reached an agreement with the O's yet. I am flattered by all the attention, but reports are premature.
— Darren O'Day (@DODay56) December 6, 2015
O’Day has been the leader of a bullpen that’s been a major factor in the Orioles’ resurgence over the last four seasons. Averaging just over 68 appearances per year since his first season in Baltimore in 2012, O’Day has pitched to a 1.92 ERA and 0.939 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) in 263 innings with the Orioles.
Manager Buck Showalter has received much credit for his handling of O’Day with the right-hander appearing in 68 games in three straight seasons and pitching no more than 68 2/3 innings. Though his age creates some cause for concern, O’Day has steadily decreased his ERA every season since joining the Orioles and has improved his strikeout rate in each of the last two years.
A four-year contract for a non-closer reliever is a rarity, but O’Day has been worth 9.7 wins above replacement over the last four seasons, which helps to justify a long-term investment. He has also been considered one of the strongest leaders in a clubhouse that lost veterans Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz last season.
Named to his first All-Star team in 2015, O’Day posted a career-best 1.52 ERA and averaged an impressive 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 65 1/3 innings this past season. The submariner also collected a career-high six saves, four coming while filling in for an ailing Zach Britton in September.
While questions about the starting rotation, first base, and the outfield remain, the Orioles have now solidified a superb bullpen that features O’Day, Britton, Brad Brach, and Mychal Givens.