Darren O’Day has never played three full seasons with a single team in the majors. Once a Rule-5 draft pick and twice a waiver-wire pick-up, the reliever came close to the three-year feat with the Texas Rangers, but injuries put an end to those hopes as he only pitched in 16 games in 2011.
Now, armed with a multi-year deal for the first time in his career, the 30-year old will try to accomplish it with the Baltimore Orioles.
The team signed O’Day to a two-year deal worth $5.8 million to buy out his final years of arbitration, and that the O’s gave him the kind of commitment that he’s never gotten was not lost on the right-hander, who says that “maybe this is [the team] saying they believe in [O’Day]”, and that “they want to keep [him] around and be part of what’s going on.”
The Orioles have every reason do to so. After picking up as injury-riddled O’Day from the “scrap heap”, as he describes it, the soft-tossing submariner turned in one of the best seasons of his career.
How good? How about as good as Jim Johnson, the team’s 51-save closer last year? In fact, you could make a pretty easy argument that O’Day was even better, as his numbers across the board, from ERA (2.28 to Johnson’s 2.49), to BAA (.199 to .219), and K/BB (4.93 to 2.73).
O’Day might not have had Johnson’s role, and that he relies on being crafty as opposed to being overpowering may mean that he never will.
That lack of a traditional closer’s arsenal hasn’t stopped O’Day from finding success though, and if the Orioles want to continue do what they did in the late innings last year, the importance of O’Day cannot be understated.
The team understands that, and as they hope to prove in 2013 – and beyond – that 2012 was the beginning of something rather than a fluke, they will do so with O’Day, one the the AL’s most valuable relievers (1.4 fWAR, tied for 11th), locked down to play a central role in continuing the bullpen magic that propelled them to the playoffs.