Sunday morning began with the first real exciting piece of news of the Orioles offseason: That the Orioles and their free agent reliever Darren O'Day had agreed on a four year deal worth $31 million. That's a lot of years and dollars for a non-closer reliever, but hey, O'Day has been good for a number of years and the Orioles have been better off for his presence on the team, so that's good, right?
Not so fast. Sometimes it seems like nothing can ever come easy for Orioles fans. After the baseball world was running that the deal was done, pending a physical, that the Orioles had managed to out-bid the Nationals because, as The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly reported, the O's were willing to offer a fourth year where Washington was not, the man himself took to Twitter with the following thought:
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
Well, that's some cold water on everything. You can take that tweet and parse it a lot of ways to work yourself up into a panic. Until the ink is dry on the deal, I'll probably be doing the same. Surely the most encouraging thing about it is the use of the word "yet," which does seem to suggest that one is still anticipated to be forthcoming. But maybe what it means to you is not what it means to O'Day. Also, "reached an agreement" is typically reporter-speak for a contract that's done except for the physical.
Although there is a lot of stuff in the baseball rumor mill that can be categorized as your choice of livestock excrement, multiple big baseball writer names going in for something that turns out to be like the famous DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN headline doesn't really happen much. So, there's always the possibility that the picture became murky as a result of the Nats changing their minds and offering more years and dollars, or that some of the personal lobbying by Nats players, as reported by Jon Heyman, still has some sway over O'Day. But it's not likely to be that.
Later in the day, Connolly characterized the signing for Orioles fans: "Buy champagne, don't pop cork." That probably means there's still a little dickering to be done within the agreed-upon framework, which, again, the reporter class all agrees is there.
Possible obstacles still remaining
That could mean there's still some negotiation over things like deferred contract money, or perhaps a no-trade clause. With the place the Orioles are right now, they might want to kick a few million dollars down the road to increase their present payroll flexibility. The two sides would have to agree on how and when that money would be paid out.
Given that O'Day's wife, Elizabeth Prann, working out of D.C. for the Fox News Channel was widely reported to be an important factor in his decision, and may be why the two final teams were the O's and Nats, an interest from O'Day in at least a limited no-trade clause would make sense. Not much fun for the O'Day family if Darren signs here to stay near here, then ends up getting traded to some place far away from that kind of big media job opportunity.
Dan Duquette told Orioles reporters that there is "more work to do" with O'Day, which makes me think it's something along the lines of the previous couple of issues.
Also not to be forgotten is the dreaded Orioles physical. That was sarcasm there. Though there are contingents of people both in the media and among Orioles fans who act like owner Peter Angelos is perched over the doctor's shoulder, waiting to fail everyone he doesn't want to pay, the fact is that the O's dinging someone after a contract is reached rarely happens.
In the most recent high profile instance, where the Orioles backed out of a deal they'd reached with Grant Balfour, subsequent events have seemed to vindicate their cautiousness. They were bashed by, among others, the Rays team physician, who said Balfour was healthy. The Rays ultimately signed him.
What the Rays got from that contract was a total 5.00 ERA and Balfour was designated for assignment before the end of April of the second year. Sure sounds like a guy who was probably pitching hurt and had that affecting his performance, just what the Orioles feared.
Another reason not to worry about the prospect of the physical, or at least not worry about it too much, is that if anyone has a good idea of what O'Day's health situation is, that's going to be the Orioles. Players take physicals at the start of spring training every year. Unless something's happened to O'Day in the last ten months or so - possible, but not likely - his bill of health should be clean.
If the Orioles had existing major concerns about O'Day's overall health, you have to think they wouldn't have stayed in the bidding process this long, going so far as to add the fourth year at the very end of it to beat out the Nats.
One other thing working in favor of a deal getting done is Adam Jones. In his typical Jones way, he posted a vague tweet that is celebratory. Now, maybe Jones was just reacting to the other reports, same as the rest of us were, but Jones could well have spoken to O'Day himself.
Where does it all leave us? Just about the same place we were before, waiting around for something to happen. It sounds encouraging, even if it's not all finalized yet.