The Braves have agreed to a minor league contract with veteran reliever Darren O’Day, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). Presumably, the Ballengee Group client will be in Major League Spring Training and hope to secure a roster spot in what would be a return bid with Atlanta.
O’Day, 39, signed a one-year deal with the Yankees back in January. He was limited to only 10 2/3 innings in 2021 due to a rotator cuff strain as well as a season-ending hamstring injury that required surgery in July. Despite the injury, O’Day chose a $700K buyout over his $1.4MM player option with the Yankees. O’Day will make a $1MM salary if he’s in the Majors, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, so he still has a chance to come out ahead.
O’Day, a side-arming righty, is a 14-year MLB veteran with a 2.53 ERA in 587 1/3 career innings. He began his pro career as an undrafted free agent back in 2006, joining the Mets’ bullpen in 2009 as a Rule 5 pick from the Angels. He was quickly claimed by the Rangers and ascended to the club’s setup job in short order. After a lost 2011 season that included hip surgery, O’Day joined the Orioles on a waiver claim. He went on to post a 1.92 ERA over the next four seasons, making the 2015 All-Star game and landing a four-year, $31MM contract to remain with Baltimore.
At the 2018 trade deadline – with O’Day out for the season due to hamstring surgery and still owed $9MM in 2019 – the Orioles shipped him to Atlanta as a salary dump along with Kevin Gausman. Though O’Day only pitched 21 2/3 innings for Atlanta from 2019-20 due to injuries, he must have enjoyed his time there. O’Day hasn’t topped 20 innings in a season since 2017. He was death on righties in his heyday, but had difficulties with lefties even back then. Specialists can be difficult to employ in the three-batter minimum era, but O’Day will have a crack at joining Atlanta’s 2022 bullpen. The current Braves pen includes Tyler Matzek, Will Smith, A.J. Minter, and Luke Jackson, plus the recently-acquired Jay Jackson. Richard Rodriguez, with a potential arbitration salary north of $3MM, is a threat to be non-tendered or traded by tomorrow’s non-tender deadline.