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Darren O'Day re-signs with Baltimore

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The Baltimore Orioles have re-signed superb submarine reliever Darren O'Day to a 4-year, $31 million deal. While that's a fair market deal for O'Day, it was a bad move for the Orioles.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Across Major League Baseball teams are doing their holiday shopping early this year. Heading into the Winter Meetings in Nashville, four top starting pitchers were all already off the market with David Price, Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmermann, and Jeff Samardzija all signed. Johnny Cueto has already received a 6-year, $120 million offer from the Arizona Diamondbacks, which he turned down. Sunday morning Ken Rosenthal reported that the Baltimore Orioles had agreed with Darren O'Day, the top relief pitcher on the market on a four-year deal.

The $31 million deal allows O'Day to stay in the Baltimore-Washington, DC metro area, where his wife is a reporter. O'Day had apparently narrowed his top choices to the Orioles and Nationals as part of his preference to stay in the area. One has to wonder how high the bidding for O'Day's services could have gone if more teams were involved in courting him.

The 32-year-old O'Day already spent four years with the Orioles and has been an incredibly valuable piece for the squad, posting a 1.92 ERA and 9.7 bWAR in that time. He had the best year of his career in 2015, pitching to the tune of a 1.59 ERA with 11.3 K/9 versus just 1.9 BB/9. O'Day earned his first career All-Star Game selection in the process. He has been so good over the past four years that his performance rivals the same stretch from Mariano Rivera's career.

Player Record ERA G GF SV IP ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W bWAR
O'Day 23-8 1.92 273 65 12 263 214 3.08 0.939 6.3 0.8 2.1 9.7 4.56 9.7
Rivera 16-17 2.42 248 227 159 271.1 192 2.82 0.969 6.5 0.5 2.2 7.8 3.55 11

O'Day bests Rivera in ERA, hits, walks, strikeouts and WHIP, but of course, Rivera was performing in much higher-leverage situations.  Also, it is worth noting that despite his submarine delivery O'Day's left-right splits are not that of a ROOGY, but rather a reliever who can get both lefties and righties out. Right-handed batters hit O'Day to a .222 wOBA in 2015, and lefties managed only a .276 wOBA.

While O'Day's contract is certainly fair to both sides and looks like it isn't an overpay for Baltimore, it is still a very curious move by the team. The Orioles, a team with limited financial reserves, almost definitely have more pressing areas to address than re-signing their eighth inning man.

Second base, shortstop, and corner outfield are all more areas of need for Dan Duquette and company to upgrade.

Oriole second basemen, shortstops, and left and right fielders put up 0.6 , -0.4, -0.4, and -1.4 fWAR, respectively. Those totals ranked 25th or worse in the major leagues. It is nearly unfathomable that a team could get such poor production from four positons. Healthy years out of Jonathan Schoop and Nolan Reimold would help marginally but not on the level of making a meaningful impact.

On top of that, it's not like O'Day is even an upgrade for the Orioles; they essentially just gave him a $3.5 million-per-year raise to do the same things he's been doing. As Dan Szymborski tweeted, without O'Day in the bullpen the Orioles would've dropped from third in the AL in bullpen ERA to fourth.

Throw in that the Orioles' best pitcher from 2015 (Wei-Yin Chen) and hitter (Chris Davis) are free agents, and it is hard to see them even being as good as the 81-81 team they were in 2015. Unless Duquette has some greater plan in the works, this is an odd allocation of capital by the Orioles. It seems like they are choosing to take a page from the Dallas Mavericks' playbook and signing what amounts to a middle-of-the-road team and hoping to get lucky. Unfortunately for the Orioles, that's not a very good strategy for long-term success.

If the team is content with hanging around the .500 mark every year or has a lot of talent in the minors on the cusp of being called up, then a move like this makes sense.  In the Orioles' case, the latter isn't true, and hopefully the former isn't either.

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Joe Vasile is the Assistant General Manager and Radio Broadcaster for the Fayetteville SwampDogs of the Coastal Plain League. Follow Joe on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.