Darren O’Day turned 33 last month, has never had more than six saves in a season, was undrafted out of college, was once a Rule 5 pick, and was twice lost on waivers to a new team. His fastball tops out around 88 mph.
He’s also going to get a guaranteed four-year deal this winter. Welcome to the world of trying to build a bullpen through free agency.
Now, this post isn’t about digging into why O’Day is so deserving of that praise, because I plan to do that soon for MLB.com, and clearly I intentionally undersold him up top. Teams don’t pay for saves anymore. How he entered pro baseball a decade ago is no longer relevant. He’s been undeniably elite over four years with the Orioles, putting up ERA marks of 2.28, 2.18, 1.70, and 1.52, and while the FIP marks haven’t always backed that up, that’s a lot of years of runs staying off the board.
In large part due to his unique “submarine riseball,” he’s been improving, too. His K% went from 23.9% to 26.9% to 31.9% over the last three years; in raw numbers, he had an 82/14 K/BB in 65.1 innings in 2015.
The point is, anyway, that he’s very good, the best reliever available, and he will be very paid. Look at FanGraphs’ Top 82 Free Agents listing, for example, where O’Day is ranked No. 33. The only other relievers in the top 55 are Joakim Soria, Tony Sipp, and J.P. Howell, who of course has since decided to remain in Los Angeles. While there’s some decent buy-low options like Shawn Kelley, Oliver Perez, and Mark Lowe, this is not a deep class of relievers.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) November 11, 2015
Interest is steep in darren o’day. red sox, tigers, nats, dodgers, royals, cubs all in.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 9, 2015
Interest in O’Day so extensive, even teams with deep bullpens have expressed interest, sources say. Among them: The #Royals.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 11, 2015
So what I’m trying to say here is, whether you want to give O’Day four years is somewhat beside the point. He’s going to get it from someone. Maybe you’re happy if that’s not the Dodgers, and that’s totally fine. Just never forget that players in free agency always, always make more than you think they ought to. If you’re not willing to play in the deep end of the pool, it’s hard to complain when you end up with the smaller fish.