Orioles reach agreement with Darren O’Day on four-year deal

NASHVILLE - The Orioles have their agreement with reliever Darren O’Day and it’s indisputable.

According to a source, O’Day will sign his four-year, $31 million deal after taking a physical later this week. The paperwork has been turned in and the back end of the Orioles’ bullpen just got stronger.

O'Day-Sidewinding-Gray-Sidebar.jpgA few details had to be worked out before the agreement became official.

Earlier today, executive vice president Dan Duquette said, “We’re continuing to work on that Darren O’Day project. We’re going to try to bring that to a head here in the next couple of days.”

It didn’t take that long.

“It’s progressing,” Duquette continued, “so we’re going to try to bring it to closure in the next couple of days. There’s a couple of items that we need to be in agreement on before we proceed, so we’re working on that. We’ll probably work on that again tonight.”

The bullpen still could be tweaked after O’Day signs his new contract. The Orioles will continue to check on available relievers.

“That’s under consideration,” Duquette said. “When we look at the pitching market, we’re looking at keeping our bullpen strong, and sometimes when you have a bullpen strong you get better work from your starters.”

It’s been a busy day for Duquette, who met with agents and executives from other teams and dug deeper into his Rule 5 research.

The high price for starting pitching has led Duquette into the trade market, where he’s finding teams willing to deal from their surplus of arms.

Duquette also met with teams regarding left-handed hitters, but he added, “A lot of the activity is focused on the pitching market right now. A lot of it.

“The prices of pitching is pretty steep, but after the first tier of pitchers signed, there’s another tier behind them and then there’s another tier right behind them. There’s some pitchers on the trade market from some of the teams that are signing some of these other pitchers, so that’s where some of the activity is, the redeployment of their resources to another club.”

Buck Showalter and Dan Duqette.jpgDuquette cited how free agent pitchers find a comfort zone in the National League, but they’re not shying away from the Orioles.

“I think a lot of the pitchers look to the National League first,” he said. “It’s a league where you get to face the pitcher. Some of the ballparks are pitcher friendly. You don’t to face the DH. Having said that, I think the pitchers recognize the value of pitching to a good defense, which the Orioles have had over the last several years.

“There’s not a lot of resistance in terms of the pitchers coming here when it comes to the ballpark and the city and the team and the community. I think pitchers are open to that. There are some ballparks in that National League, in the National League East and National League West, it’s not as challenging for some of the teams and the ballparks that we play in.”

The Orioles could add a few players this week beyond the Rule 5 draft, or it might take a little longer.

“I think we’ll be able to do some things to help the team that we’ll work on this, try to get them done by the end of the week,” Duquette said. “If not, I think they’ll come to fruition next week. There’s a few things we’ve got in the works.”

Including his continued search for a left-handed hitting outfielder.

“There’s a lot of availability on the outfield market,” he said. “That’s an area that we addressed with the two right-handed hitters. We’d like to address it with a left-handed hitter if we can. So I think we’ll be able to do that. But again, some of this is going to be groundwork laid this week and will happen shortly thereafter.

“A couple of meetings we had with the agencies, we were pretty encouraged by the players that were available and the players that were also interested in us.”

How much emphasis is placed on speed when sifting through outfield candidates?

“It’s important to cover the ground, right?” Duquette said.

“Top of the lineup, to get on base. We put a lot of emphasis on defense. And good baserunner.”

The Orioles are prepared to spend more money.

“We had more flexibility on our payroll from some of the players that came off the roster,” Duquette said. “We had, what, 11 free agents with the club during the season? That made resources available to sign players. We don’t have a lot of long-term commitments on our roster, which gives us flexibility. It gives us some payroll flexibility, and then we’re going to try and construct the roster so we have some roster flexibility to go with the payroll flexibility.”

Kevin Gausman is expected to remain one of the starters despite other teams constantly checking on his availability. Duquette was amused by a report that the Cubs like Gausman.

“Well, we do, too,” he said. “There are a lot of teams that like pitchers that throw hard and are youthful and getting ready to emerge in the big leagues. But that’s good, that’s good.

“We do have some young pitchers coming through our farm system. We added a couple of players to the roster earlier this year, right? We added Chris Jones and (Andrew) Triggs and Parker Bridwell, and Tanner Scott was named one of the top prospects in the Arizona Fall League. He’s a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher we took in the draft a couple of years ago. So, there’s a little bit of pitching depth in our farm system. See if we can get it up to the big leagues.”

jason garcia on mound.jpgFormer Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia is gaining notice in Nashville, which would make a catchy T-shirt slogan.

“I don’t know if he’s not planning to make the majors. I’m sure he wants to make the majors, but we have the option to send him to the minors next year. We didn’t have that luxury this year,” Duquette said.

“He’s got the year experience in the big leagues, but he probably needs a few more innings. When he was pitching for us in the big leagues, he did compete, although there were times when his inexperience was a challenge. But he’s got a good arm. He’s young, he’s healthy. He’ll be on our roster.

“There’s some trade interest in him, which is encouraging.”

The Orioles are expected to make at least one selection in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.

“We’ve got some outfielders on the list, we’ve got some outfielders, some pitchers,” Duquette said, before adding that there’s also a catcher under consideration.

The Orioles won’t be deterred from taking a Rule 5 players despite the possibility that pitcher Dylan Bundy breaks camp with the team.

Dylan Bundy’s out of options, so we have to kind of plan for him to be on the roster,” Duquette said. “We still have a spot open for a Rule 5 draft. Who knows? We’ll see. We took two Rule 5s last year.”

Manager Buck Showalter said Bundy and Hunter Harvey are expected to attend the January minicamp in Sarasota.

“Good chance they’ll be there, depending on where they are physically,” Showalter said. “We expect them to be ready to go. We’re just trying to finalize that list. They’re on the maybe list. None of them on the roster have to come. There are some things you’ve got to step through to get that.

“We’re going to have some of our guys already down there. I know (Chris) Tillman and Miguel (Gonzalez). (Zach) Britton is probably going to be down there. We’re going to have some of our major league guys there already. Brady (Anderson) has got that set up and working already. He sent me some tape the other day of some of those guys out in California working now. Brady’s traveling now. He’ll be here shortly.”

Anderson, who assisted in the O’Day negotiations, is heavily involved in the hiring of an assistant hitting coach.

“When Brady gets here, Dan and I and Scott (Coolbaugh), we’re going to gather the group and move forward with it,” Showalter said. “I thought this would be a good time to really get our heads together about the names we have. We’ve got a good group, so there’s a lot of things that happen here and some names you might hear that we haven’t thought about. We just want to make sure we cover it. It’s a luxury we’re able to have and we want to make sure we get the right person.

“I think we look for it to make us a better-rounded staff for all the things that need to be served. We want to improve it for the players. Einar (Diaz) will be able to do more things. He’ll do a lot of things he was doing. He’ll make us better in the bullpen. You know, Scott’s got 13 hitters every day, so being able to do some things with Scott hand in hand we think will make our hitters better, but there are some specific things that we want to be better at in that capacity that it’s just impossible for one guy to stay on top of for 24 hours a day. We have a skill set we’re looking for and he’s going to have to bring that to be considered and that’s how we’re kind of sifting through it to make sure they fit that.”

I’ve heard that Coolbaugh is totally on board with hiring an assistant.

“Well, he’s going to have some say in this,” Showalter said. “I’ve talked to him about this in detail and he’s put some names on the list too and we’re going to put them together. We’ll get them down to some interviews shortly and sit down with them until we get it down to about three and then sit down with them and see where we want to go.

“Scott wants what’s best for the hitters, as we do. There’s some areas we want to improve in and hopefully this position might help us some.”

The Orioles are expected to hire someone from outside the organization.

“We’re gathering names and we’ll always look from within first, but we also don’t want to rob from Peter to pay Paul,” Showalter said. “We have some people who are very important to the organization, whether it be a hitting coordinator, a Triple-A hitting coach, a Double-A hitting coach. We have some internal candidates we’d be fine with, but you’re also careful about hurting another area that they’ve been very instrumental in the development in our guys.

“They’re trying to keep a consistent player development group together and that’s big for the players down there, so they have come consistency with their instruction. In a perfect world, we want the same people. We’ve been very fortunate to have the same people.”

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