Orioles reliever Darren O’Day said Saturday that the club has expressed interest in retaining him beyond this season, but that discussions haven’t gone far beyond gauging his interest in returning.
“Just feelers to see where my interest is and to see if I’m interested in coming back,” O’Day said. “And yes, I am, so that’s where we’re at, really.”
O’Day, one of the Orioles’ six pending free agents, has long expressed his desire to stay in Baltimore. But he is coming off his first All-Star appearance and has assembled a strong resume in his four years with the Orioles as one of the game’s top setup men.
Free agency — and a significant payday — beckons, and it’s an opportunity for O’Day, who said he never thought he would remain in the game this long. O'Day was not drafted, overcame injuries and didn't find a long-term home until joining his fourth organization in Baltimore.
“You know, I’ve already been in the game for so much longer than I ever thought I would be," O'Day said. "Just to be able to play this game this long, it is exciting. I never thought I’d get to my seventh or eighth [season]. In that aspect, it is exciting.”
While any discussions about remaining with the Orioles have been only preliminary, O’Day (6-2 with a 1.54 ERA this season) said he hopes those talks will continue through the offseason.
“They’ve expressed interest,” O’Day said. “I know they like me as a pitcher and as a person, so, yeah, I’d love to come back if they’d like to have me back, so we’re going to continue talking about that. I’ve had a good run of things the past four years and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t keep talking about it.”
Contracts for setup men as successful as O’Day have become lucrative in recent years.
Before the 2014 season, the Los Angeles Angels signed sidearm setup man Joe Smith to a three-year, $15.75 million deal. That was two years ago; O’Day's contract easily could surpass that in both years and dollar figures.
O’Day’s 2.7 wins above replacement is the third-highest mark among major league relievers with at least 55 appearances. It is the highest mark among free agents and 0.3 higher than former Orioles reliever Andrew Miller, who received a four-year, $36 million deal from the New York Yankees last offseason and has assumed the role of closer.
O’Day, 32, also has acquired some recent closing experience. He has a career-high six saves this year, including saves in three straight games last week against the Nationals in Washington while filling in for closer Zach Britton. O’Day, however, said he doesn’t need to close in his next contract.
“I don’t feel like I need to be a closer to be validated," he said. "But if somebody wants me to do that, then I’d be glad to do it. I enjoy what I do [in the] seventh, eighth inning. Sometimes those situations in the seventh and eighth are harder situations to get out of than the ninth. I appreciate what closers do. I’m not saying their jobs are easy. … If they want me to close, want me to set up, I’ll do whatever they want me to do.”