It seems there is already substantial interest in free agent reliever Darren O’Day, an Oriole for the last four seasons and one whose highest ERA with the club was the 2.28 he posted in 2012.
He’s had a rock-solid four years with the club and he even made the All-Star team in 2015 as a set-up man. That is rare.
O’Day went 6-2 with a 1.52 ERA and many other impressive stats in 2015. How about a 0.934 WHIP or a walk rate of 1.9 batters per nine innings to go along with a career-best 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings? He gets out left- and right-handed hitters, can close if needed and is a valued clubhouse leader.
On the day before the season ended, O’Day said the Orioles put out feelers to him to see if he wanted to stay and he told them he did.
“They’ve expressed interest,” he said then. “I know they like me as a pitcher and as a person. Yeah, you know, I’d love to come back if they’d like to have me back, so we are going to continue talking about that. I’ve had a good run of things these past four years, and I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t keep talking about it.”
O’Day was asked if he was excited to go through the free agency process.
“You know what? I’ve already been in the game so much longer than I thought I would be. Just to be able to play the game for this long, it is exciting. I never thought I’d get to my seventh or eighth year. In that aspect, it is exciting, yes,” he said.
No reason to not want him back, of course. But how will the Orioles value the contract that O’Day is projected to get? Looking at several predictions he seems in line for an average annual value in salary somewhere between $7 and $8 million and maybe even more. The bidding here could be robust. Some predict a four-year deal worth $32 million for a player the Orioles got through a waiver claim in November 2011.
Should the Orioles go the extra mile for O’Day?
It would be hard to find many arguments against re-signing him and indeed going that extra mile. Although, one potentially could be his age of 33. Will he continue to pitch well into his mid-30s during a multi-year deal?
Another argument for not re-signing O’Day is that the O’s may have other relievers that could pitch well in his previous role. There are Brad Brach and Mychal Givens. Could another young pitcher emerge as a dependable setup guy like Jason Garcia, Mike Wright or Oliver Drake?
Maybe they can, but asking any of the above to duplicate O’Day’s numbers is a real stretch, I would think. Those pitchers all have solid potential and could become dependable arms in the ‘pen. But O’Day has been one of the best in the game and the current interest level in him verifies that.
O’Day earned $4.25 million last year and now he may double that or come close. He’s earned it through 273 Orioles appearances over these last four seasons.
We don’t often (or maybe ever) see the Orioles win a bidding war for a player. There will be one for O’Day. The total contract value is less for a reliever than it will be for a starter or obviously for Chris Davis.
How far should the Orioles go, all things considered, for O’Day?