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Darren O'Day was holding all the cards, so the Orioles had to fold

Darren O'Day pitches for the Orioles against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Aug. 31, 2015.
Darren O'Day pitches for the Orioles against the Tampa Bay Rays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Aug. 31, 2015.(Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Orioles fans should rejoice at the news that premier setup reliever Darren O'Day will be remaining with the O's for the next four years. You can bet manager Buck Showalter is breathing a sigh of relief.

O'Day was the best reliever on the open market, so he never figured to come cheap. The price -- $7.75 million per year -- is almost closer money, but that's because O'Day is the guy who has made it possible for both Jim Johnson and Zach Britton to be elite closers over the course of his terrific four-year Orioles career.

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There was never a question of whether the Orioles wanted to keep him, but there was plenty of other interest. O'Day narrowed the field down to the Orioles and Washington Nationals -- the two teams within driving distance of his home -- in part because his wife is a Fox News reporter in Washington.

He had been reportedly close to breaking that tie for a couple of days before CBSSports.com reported early Sunday that the Orioles had succeeded in retaining him. That allows Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette to open the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., with one less roster spot to fill.

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It was bound to happen eventually. Baseball's free-agent market erupted this past week with a string of giant contracts that are certain to impact the big-name players who remain unsigned — most notably top slugger Chris Davis.

O'Day was originally claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers before the 2012 season and immediately made a huge impact on the Orioles bullpen. He was 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA in his first season in Baltimore setting up Johnson for a major-league-leading 51 saves. He improved on the performance the following year and has lowered his ERA in each succeeding season. This past year, he was 6-2 with a 1.52 ERA.

The Orioles really could not afford to lose him. He has been the lynchpin in a bullpen that has been the most dependable part of an Orioles team that has posted winning seasons in three of the past four years.

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