12:48pm: O’Day receives a $1.75MM salary for the upcoming season and has a $1.4MM player option with a $700K buyout, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. He’ll actually make the first decision, and if he opts for the buyout, the Yankees then have a $3.15MM club option over the righty.
Technically, because O’Day is guaranteed this year’s $1.75MM salary and that $1.4MM player option, one could call this a $3.15MM guarantee over a two-year term. However, since only the buyout is technically factored into the guarantee under the luxury tax, it’s a one-year, $2.45MM deal for luxury purposes. Ultimately, if O’Day pitches well enough to decline that player option but still have the club option exercised, it seems he can earn a total of $5.6MM between 2021-22.
12:33pm: O’Day’s contract is a one-year deal that contains both a player option and a club option, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. (Presumably, the Yankees will have the option to pick up O’Day’s 2022 season at a set price and, if declined, he can opt into a second season at a lower rate.) He’s guaranteed a total of $2.5MM in 2021, Heyman adds.
12:22pm: The Yankees are in agreement on a contract with free-agent righty Darren O’Day, reports Lindsey Adler of The Athletic (via Twitter). O’Day, represented by the Ballengee Group, still needs to pass a physical before the deal is finalized.
The 38-year-old O’Day will add a seasoned veteran to an already formidable Yankees bullpen. Most expected O’Day to be back with the Braves in 2021, given an affordable club option on his contract, but Atlanta made the surprising decision to pay him a $500K buyout rather than pay him a $3.5MM salary in 2021. For a reliever coming off 16 1/3 innings of 1.10 ERA ball eight hits and five walks allowed against 22 strikeouts, that seemed to be an eminently reasonable price tag. Heyman adds that the Braves and Phillies finished runner-up to the Yankees in their efforts to sign O’Day.
O’Day wasn’t only strong in 2020, of course. The sidearming righty has a length track record of being a high-quality setup piece, dating all the way back to a breakout 2009 with the Rangers. He’s dealt with injuries in recent years, requiring IL stints for elbow, shoulder and hamstring injuries since 2016, but whenever he’s on the field O’Day has been effective. Since 2012, he’s only turned in three seasons with an ERA north of 3.00 — never higher than 2016’s 3.77 in that span — while putting together a composite 2.34 ERA with a 28.6 percent strikeout rate against an impressive 6.8 percent walk rate.
New York’s recent trade of Adam Ottavino to the Red Sox surely paved the way for this move. Prior to shedding the bulk of Ottavino’s salary, the Yankees were pressed right up to the precipice of a luxury-tax barrier that ownership is said to be unwilling to cross. That trade, however, cleared $8.15MM of luxury obligations (in exchange for Ottavino and prospect Frank German, who was effectively sold to Boston in the swap). Some of that resulting flexibility will now go to O’Day — a veteran reliever himself who, like Ottavino, gives right-handed opponents fits (career .193/.262/.287).
The Yankees also reportedly circled back with longtime outfielder Brett Gardner at some point last week and still have some interest in bringing him back — likely as a reserve, given a rather full outfield slate as it is. If Gardner is willing to take a similar guarantee to that of O’Day, he could slot into a bench role and still leave the Yankees a few million dollars of breathing room, relative to the luxury threshold, for in-season dealings.