An underrated piece to the Kevin Gausman trade was the Braves acquiring Darren O’Day. His inclusion was more of a salary dump for the Orioles- the main reason the Braves didn’t have to give up much for Gausman. He made $9 million last year and will make another $9 million in 2019, but at least he will be a healthy option this time around that can strengthen what was an inconsistent Braves’ pen a year ago.
O’Day, now 36 years old and coming off a serious hamstring injury, probably shouldn’t be expected to pitch like his 2015 All-Star self. That said, he’s been a consistently great reliever over his eleven seasons in the major leagues.
He broke in with the Texas Rangers back in 2009, putting together two stellar seasons before suffering multiple injuries in an injury-shortened third season. Following that, O’Day was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles off of waivers in 2012 where he became one of the most consistently reliable relieving options in the majors. Take a look at these statistics in his first four seasons with Baltimore:
2012: 69 appearances, 67 innings, 2.28 ERA
2013: 68 appearances, 62 innings, 2.18 ERA
2014: 68 appearances, 68.2 innings, 1.70 ERA
2015: 68 appearances, 65.1 innings, 1.52 ERA (All-Star)
*Statistics courtesy of baseball reference
Those results earned him a four-year extension with the Orioles worth $31 million dollars – the last of which the Braves will be paying off this season. Since, O’Day hasn’t been able to mirror that success.
2016 was another injury-marred campaign. He only appeared in 31 games for the O’s and finished with a 3.77 ERA. O’Day bounced back with a healthy 2017, pitching in 64 games, but had his worst ever ERA over a complete season at 3.43. We know what happened in 2018. He was pronounced out for the season before the Braves acquired him. Prior to the injury, O’Day had a 3.60 ERA in 20 appearances.
Despite rising ERA numbers, his strikeout numbers have been the highest they have ever been over the last three seasons. He’s not one to allow many hits- but his number of walks has gone up with his spike in ERA. That’s something the Braves would certainly hate to see plague O’Day in Atlanta. The bullpen allowed an abnormal amount of runs off of walks a season ago, a trend I’m sure Alex Anthopoulos is intent on stopping.
The Braves still need to focus on finding the right guy to lock down the ninth. Whether that be Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, or an external option – it’s something that has to be a priority before the beginning of the season. But outside of the closer’s role, the Braves should have plenty of options that can get them to the ninth inning. O’Day will be among those options, and possibly the set-up man, providing he can stay healthy for the entirety of 2019.