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Darren O'Day is free agency's hot target; Matt Wieters' market might have shrunk

Darren O'Day is going to become a rich man in free agency.

One of the storylines coming out of the general managers meetings in Florida this week is that the free agent “Belle of the Ball” so far is none other than Darren O’Day, the side-arming reliever who spent the past four seasons with the Orioles.

There are plenty of higher profile free agents – plenty who will get bigger paydays – but there should be no surprise that many teams are circling around O’Day and his agent, Jeff Borris.

O’Day is the most consistent reliever in a weak market. He could close if needed. And baseball’s recent hot trend, brought to you by the Kansas City Royals and others, is to beef up the bullpen because starters aren’t lasting long in games and cost more than quality relievers.

In fact, FoxSports.com reported that the Royals, owners of baseball’s scariest bullpen, have interest in O’Day. Various reports also have linked O’Day to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants. I wouldn’t rule out the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves or Texas Rangers, either. I wouldn’t rule out anyone in the O’Day sweepstakes right now, including the Orioles.

All things being equal, I think O’Day would like to remain in Baltimore. But once free agency unfolds for real, things stop being equal. And some team is going to pay a whole lot of money for O’Day’s consistency and leadership.

That’s probably what surprises me most about these reports. The conjecture is still focused on a three-year deal for O’Day, with speculation that it could be more than what Luke Gregerson received from the Houston Astros – three years and $18.5 million – last offseason.

Believe me when I say it’s gonna blow that out of the water. Several industry sources have told me they expect O’Day’s new contract to be closer to what former Orioles lefty Andrew Miller received last offseason: Four years and $36 million.

Miller and O’Day are completely different pitchers; Miller was 29 when he signed his contract and O’Day is 33. But O’Day just turned 33 in October, so four full seasons takes him to age 36, not 37. And O’Day has a better recent track record of health than Miller.

He might not get Miller money, but if there is as much legitimate competition for his services as is being reported, four years seems like a slam dunk for O’Day now.

And I don’t think I need to remind the Orioles fan base what happened last year with the club, four-year deals and its free agents.

Does Pierzynski affect Wieters?

 

One interesting development Wednesday doesn’t specifically affect the Orioles, but it might have a trickle-down effect. Various outlets reported the Atlanta Braves re-signed 38-year-old catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year deal after he hit .300 this past season.

Pierzynski wasn’t high on the Orioles’ list for catching depth, but his presence in Atlanta in 2016 clogs at least one catcher spot there. The other could go to 24-year-old perpetual prospect Christian Bethancourt, who has hit .219 in parts of three big league seasons. Bethancourt has struggled in the majors, but he can’t be dismissed as an option for the Braves next year.

So, that could mean Orioles catcher Matt Wieters won’t be headed back to Atlanta, where he went to college and built his dream home.

It seemed like the perfect fit given Wieters’ ties there, the Braves need for a starting catcher and the belief they are trying to build an impactful roster for when they move into their new stadium in 2017.

Pierzynski’s presence, even for a year, seemingly makes that marriage a lot less likely. That’s not to say Wieters will be singing for his supper now. He’ll have plenty of suitors.

The Orioles will find out by Friday whether Wieters has accepted the club’s one-year qualifying offer, worth $15.8 million. I still can’t imagine he takes it, since none of the previous 34 players who received the offer have accepted it. And Wieters’ representative, Scott Boras, has always advised his free agent clients to at least test the market before signing. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. But don’t count on it.

Machado not DPOY

Third baseman Manny Machado won the AL Gold Glove presented by Rawlings on Tuesday, but he didn’t win the Wilson Sporting Goods Defensive Player of the Year Award announced Wednesday. The award, which is based on an advanced defensive metrics formula, is given to one player per position throughout the majors. The third base award went to Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, who won the National League Gold Glove on Tuesday.

Ripken to get lifetime achievement award

Cal Ripken Jr. hasn’t played since 2001, but he’s still getting awards. In December at the winter meetings, Ripken will be presented with Baseball America’s Tony Gwynn Award for lifetime contributions to the game.

Ripken’s won a bunch of hardware, but this one seems particularly cool. Ripken and Gwynn, the former San Diego Padres star who died in 2014, were inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame together in 2007.

“Tony was a friend and a terrific ambassador for the game,” Ripken said in a news release. “I will always remember entering the Hall of Fame with Tony and the great time we had in 2007.”

Hall of Fame chances

Oddsmakers at SportsBettingDime.com have handicapped this year’s potential Hall of Fame class. First-year candidate Ken Griffey Jr., is a lock at 1-4 odds and catcher Mike Piazza is listed as having 5-8 odds. Former Orioles great Mike Mussina, in his third year of eligibility, is a 40-1 shot (he was named on 24.6 percent of ballots last year; 75 percent is needed for induction). Other former Oriole odds: Tim Raines, 4-1, Curt Schilling, 12-1, Lee Smith, 20-1, Sammy Sosa, 100-1.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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