The Oakland A's are looking to revamp their bullpen, and one potential target is right-hander Darren O'Day, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 33-year-old reliever spent the last four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles.
In his time in Baltimore, O'Day emerged as one of the most consistently excellent relievers in the game. Over the last four seasons, he's made 273 appearances and thrown 263 innings with a 1.92 ERA, 283 strikeouts (9.7 K/9), 62 walks (2.1 BB/9), and an 86% conversion rate in his 109 save situations (12 saves, 78 holds, 4 wins, 15 blown). His highest ERA in those four years was 2.28 (in 2012), and that mark has gone down each year (to a low of 1.52 last year). He's been worth 9.7 bWAR over those four years (fWAR says only 4.9). He had his best year yet in 2015, earning his first All-Star bid and and striking out a career-high 11.3 batters per nine innings.
As you can see from the photo at the top, O'Day is a sidewinder. He's more effective against right-handed batters, but he's still kept lefties under a .700 OPS in three of the last four seasons so he's not just a ROOGY. He's a legit set-up man, who uses a fastball/slider combo to pile up swinging strikes (17th among MLB relievers last year in SwStr%).
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that O'Day is looking for a four-year deal for around $28-36 million, so this would not be an under-the-radar signing. This would be a premium deal for a premium reliever. That may not be an issue, though:
Forst says payroll not an issue right now and #Athletics are pursing FA relievers with their top priority to rebuild bullpen.— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) November 20, 2015
Forst, asked about 'pen, says payroll is not a deterrent. "We’ve got room to spend, we've just gotta find the right guys." #Athletics— Joe Stiglich (@JoeStiglichCSN) November 20, 2015
The A's had a lot of money come off the books in the last six months, and the only contracts they currently hold are to Billy Butler, Coco Crisp, Sean Doolittle, and Rich Hill, for a total of less than $30 million. There are lots of arbitration salaries yet to be added (Josh Reddick, Brett Lawrie, etc.), but there is definitely money available and there is definitely a need for more talent in the bullpen.
In 2015, the A's season was sunk by many factors, but the leading one was the bullpen. Oakland's relievers were 28th with a 4.63 ERA, and even that doesn't tell the whole story as the runs often came at the worst possible moments. Their 25 blown saves were tied for 3rd in MLB, and their 19-35 record in one-run games was about as bad as a team can realistically be over a full season.
The A's haven't had much luck recently in picking up "proven" relievers on big salaries, as Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, and Tyler Clippard are all examples of pitchers who came to Oakland and fell short of expectations. But at the same time, they simply have to bring in some new arms after last year's disaster, and O'Day appears to be about as consistent as they come. You can't stop trying to get good players just because a few didn't work out in the past.
Oakland already began their bullpen revamp by acquiring right-hander Liam Hendriks from the Blue Jays in exchange for Jesse Chavez on Friday.
What do you think of O'Day? Would he be a smart signing? And do the A's even have a chance, given that the Dodgers are among the teams highly interested in him?