As soon as the last out of the World Series is made, six Orioles will become free agents. The club then will have five days to work out contract extensions before players can begin negotiating with other teams.
Rarely do players sign during that exclusive period, and Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said recently that he expected all six to test the market.
Here's the third installment of a six-part look, in alphabetical order, at each Orioles free agent's prospects and a prediction of the likelihood they return. On this scale, a 1 signifies the lowest chance and a 10 the highest.
Name: Darren O'Day
Position: Right-handed reliever
2015 stats: 6-2, 1.52 ERA, 6 saves in 68 games, 651/3 innings
2015 salary: $4.25 million
Qualifying offer possibility: None.
Prospects heading into free agency: Next to Chris Davis', O'Day's timing is the best of any Orioles free agent. The side-arming veteran had his most impressive campaign in what has been a splendid four years in Baltimore. He made his first All-Star team — a rarity for relievers who are not closers — and was consistent all year. He posted the lowest ERA of his eight seasons in the big leagues.
Why he'll stay an Oriole: The argument can be made that no one in the clubhouse is more important from a leadership standpoint than O'Day. The entire pitching staff takes its lead from O'Day and he's the unquestioned general in the bullpen. Oh, he's an exceptionally effective reliever, too. He's appeared in 68 or more games and posted a 2.28 ERA or lower in each of his past four seasons. The Orioles have an excellent eighth and ninth inning combination in O'Day and Zach Britton, and recent postseasons have shown how important deep, shutdown bullpens are. Perhaps more than any other pending free agent, O'Day genuinely seems like he wants to stay with the Orioles.
Why he'll leave the Orioles: The way he has pitched the past four years, and the increasing importance of quality middle-to-late-inning relief — the Kansas City Royals can be thanked for that movement — puts O'Day in a position where he could get a huge contract. They are completely different types of pitcher, but former Orioles left-hander Andrew Miller received a four-year, $36 million deal from the New York Yankees last offseason even though he had one career save. O'Day has had a better track record of durability than Miller, now the Yankees closer, and has done the closer's job competently when asked, including in September when he saved three straight games in Washington, D.C., while Britton was sidelined. If another team views O'Day as a closer, the money will probably be too much to pass up — and he could even approach Miller's payday. The Orioles showed with Miller that they wouldn't pay closer money to a noncloser, so the gap between what O'Day could earn and what the Orioles would offer might be too large. Plus, the Orioles might figure they got the four best years out of O'Day and that the odds are against him sustaining such consistent performance into his mid-30s.
Best landing spot: Orioles fans will cringe, but the Washington Nationals would be a perfect fit. They desperately need to fortify their bullpen and always seem to find money to buy players. O'Day's wife, Elizabeth Prann, is a Fox News Channel anchor and reporter based out of Washington and the couple lives in between the two cities for commuting purposes. O'Day also wouldn't have to adjust to Washington's difficult closer, Jonathan Papelbon. They've known each other since attending the same high school in Jacksonville, Fla. — though they were two grades apart and didn't play on the same varsity team. The Atlanta Braves, who need a bullpen upgrade, also would make a lot of sense. O'Day and his wife lived in Atlanta for several years while Prann was a Fox correspondent there.
Dan Connolly's scale of return: 5.