Free-agent reliever Darren O'Day is likely to remain with the Orioles after agreeing in principle to a four-year, $31 million contract pending a physical and the completion of other contract specifics, an industry source confirmed Sunday morning.
O'Day, 33, was expected to agree to a deal with the Washington Nationals on Friday, according to a source, but the Orioles offered a fourth year.
Sources said the agreement was in its infancy and O'Day wrote on Twitter Sunday that he had "not reached an agreement with the O's yet" and called reports of a deal "premature."
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette concurred with O'Day's tweet later Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., site of the winter meetings that begin today.
"The team has some more work to do if there's going to be an agreement with Darren O'Day, so that's not really a news item today. So, suffice it to say, we've got more work to do on that," Duquette said. "It's not a deal until it's completed. There's just more work to do."
If O'Day signs with the Orioles, the contract would average $7.75 million per year and will push the club's projected payroll for 2016 over $100 million. The average annual value of the contract comes in not too far under the four-year, $36 million contract ($9 million per year) Andrew Miller signed with the New York Yankees last offseason.
Duquette refused to say how close the deal was to being completed.
"I don't really handicap those things, but we'll see. We'll see," he said.
Re-signing O'Day or finding a suitable replacement was one of the Orioles' top priorities at the winter meetings. Now, they don't have to be as concerned about the back end of their bullpen with the steady side-armer likely on board.
The Orioles added a fourth year to the deal because O'Day was the leader of the club's pitching staff. In four seasons with the Orioles, O'Day is 23-8 with a 1.92 ERA in 273 appearances. He has appeared in at least 68 games in each of his four years with the club, and is coming off the best season of his career (6-2, 1.52 ERA in 68 appearances).
O'Day's likely signing might have some effect on negotiations with free-agent slugger Chris Davis. There might be less money for the Orioles to re-sign Davis, but having O'Day in the fold might also be a sign that the club is willing to push a little harder to keep their own players this year. O'Day and Davis are good friends, too.
The decision to increase their offer for O'Day does seem to continue a trend of paying to retain leaders this offseason after the decision to not re-sign outfielders Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz haunted them last year. Catcher Matt Wieters accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Orioles in November.