The abstract idea that, before too long, Darren O'Day would no longer be on the Orioles has been in the back of our awareness since before the most recent baseball season even began. Now we find ourselves in the free agency period and that vague notion is heading towards concrete reality sooner rather than later. Pretty much everyone seems to be interested in him, and you know what that means.
ESPN's Buster Olney reports that the market for O'Day is "moving quickly, as expected." After all, it's not every day that a reliever who has combined for a 1.92 ERA over the past four seasons hits the free agent market. He was so good this past year that he garnered one of the rare non-closer All-Star selections. Since O'Day is 33, that will impact his value somewhat, but you can't argue with that track record, and with his ERA having gone down each of the past three seasons, it doesn't look like age is about to catch up with him.
What that adds up to is a crowded market, with a number of teams sniffing around. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted earlier in the week that at least six teams have shown some interest in O'Day early on. The teams he named are the Tigers, Nationals, Red Sox, Dodgers, Royals, and Cubs. Losing Andrew Miller to the Yankees and then losing O'Day to either the Red Sox or Nationals would be pretty much the worst, wouldn't it?
Olney added the Giants to the list, and if you want to buy this craziness about the Yankees giving some thought to trading Miller, we probably shouldn't rule them out entirely either. Heck, why not trade your closer if you just sign someone who's about as good? You've still ended up with a great relief pitcher plus whatever the traded guy might net you.
All of that interest adds up to money heading O'Day's way, and it's probably not going to be the O's paying him that money. Surely they're interested too, just like they're always interested until they look at the price tag. Another ESPN writer, Jerry Crasnick, polled some executives who believe O'Day will end up being paid "well north" of the three-year, $18.5 million contract handed out to Luke Gregerson last offseason. It doesn't exactly take a Sherlock Holmes level of deduction to reach that conclusion.
Tim Dierkes of MLBTR predicted three years and $22.5 million for O'Day, with a strong chance that heavy interest could generate a fourth year for the eventual contract. Set aside for a moment the questions of whether the Orioles could or should offer something like a four year, $30 million contract to a guy who's not even currently their closer, the fact is that they likely won't do so.
A little bit more than $7 million per year isn't much in the grand scheme of things, but it's a lot to put into the back end of the bullpen for a team with as many holes to fill as the Orioles have. So back here in Birdland we must prepare for the eventuality that seems to be approaching sooner rather than later, that O'Day will be headed elsewhere sooner rather than later. And of course, while he may be the first departure of the offseason, he surely won't be the last.
Isn't hot stove season fun?