The race for All-Star setup man Darren O’Day is realistically down to two teams. After hearing out all of the offers, O’Day is still considering the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. The Atlanta Braves are supposedly in the mix, but there is really no chance O’Day goes South unless he really, really wants to take on the challenge of closing ballgames on a full-time basis.
Why are the Nationals and Orioles the final two teams for O’Day?
It’s really quite simple — family.
O’Day’s wife is Elizabeth Prann, a news anchor for Fox News based out of Washington. The couple live halfway between the two cities. Atlanta seems to make sense as well because it is a media hub. O’Day’s wife could seemingly transition easily into a similar role in Georgia, but it is highly unlikely the 33-year-old right-hander is interested in playing on a terrible ballclub with very little apparent direction at this point in his career.
The Orioles and Nationals both desperately need to sign O’Day. The Orioles have an extremely shaky starting rotation, but if they re-sign O’Day, the bullpen will continue to be among the best in baseball. Zach Britton is a lockdown closer and rookie Mychal Givens is right out of the O’Day mold of shooting bee-bees from the hip. Going Givens, O’Day, Britton over the final three frames will have the Orioles protecting most leads.
As for the Nationals, the 2015 edition of the bullpen was a total and utter catastrophe. Drew Storen was very, very good in the first half, but melted down after the front office pulled off a trade for Jonathan Papelbon. Storen was demoted to the eighth inning and almost immediately lost the feel for his slider. The rest of the bullpen was a mess, which prompted the trade for Papelbon in the first place. Now, the Nationals want to unload Storen and Papelbon and rebuild the eighth and ninth innings with O’Day and another elite closer who is less prone to dumb-assery than Papelbon.
Here’s what O’Day wants — four years and $8-9 million per year. Who can give it to him? Probably both teams. At this point, it is unlikely the Orioles will plop down the $15-20 million to sign a mid-tier starter. They are not improving their hopes drastically with a pitcher like Yovani Gallardo or Scott Kazmir. The best bet is to re-sign Chris Davis, re-sign O’Day, and ride with whatever the starting rotation can give. The Nationals are also similarly desperate for a relief pitcher.
It will really come down to which team O’Day feels more comfortable with. He has spent four seasons with the Orioles and has blossomed into one of the game’s best relievers during his time with Baltimore. The Orioles were the team that gave O’Day a chance after the Texas Rangers waived him coming off an injury-plagued season in 2011. The submariner rewarded their faith with four years of sub-2.00 ERA pitching.
O’Day always embraced the clubhouse culture in Baltimore, and became one of the leaders of the team. He is loved by the fans and his teammates. None of this was supposed to happen after he was sent to the scrapheap by the Rangers. O’Day seems like the type of player to whom such things mean more than a few extra million dollars.
That O’Day has already ruled out the Dodgers, a team that could easily pay him the most, in order to avoid uprooting his wife shows a different type of character. While few players in this day and age are willing to offer a hometown discount, O’Day is one who actually may consider it, but only if the Orioles offer four years. It will not be an extreme discount, but if the Orioles make an offer that is competitive with Washington’s it should surprise no one if he leaves some money on the table to reclaim his rightful place in the Camden Yards bullpen.