Washington Nationals Free Agent Profile: Darren O’Day


During this offseason, one of the needs that the Washington Nationals will need to address for the 2016 season is in the bullpen. First, they have to decide whether Jonathan Papelbon and/or Drew Storen will be with the team next season. If the organization decides to move on from both relievers, they will need to add more late-inning relief help. With a lack of a dominant closer on the free agent market next year, could the Nats look to someone who has pitched in the Beltway since 2012?

The reliever that could be an interesting option for the Nationals is right-hander Darren O’Day. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network tweeted today and wrote in his Inside Baseball column yesterday that the Nats are one of the teams interested in acquiring O’Day:

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The 33-year-old is coming off the best season of his career with the Baltimore Orioles. In a year in which he made the AL All-Star team, O’Day had a 1.52 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, and was 6-for-11 in saves over the course of 68 games. Plus, his 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings was a career-high.

O’Day began his Major League career with the Angels in 2008, but played only one season there before joining the Mets for four games in 2009. He would end up going to Texas from April 2009-2011, but the one thing he struggled with was his control as he had walked over two batters per nine innings in two of those three seasons.

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Ever since O’Day signed with the Orioles in November of 2011, he has been a different pitcher. Buck Showalter has used him in different situations from the seventh inning on. His ERA has gone down each of the last four seasons from 2.28 in 2012 to 1.52 this year. Plus, his FIP of 2.49 was the lowest of any season in his career.

O’Day has two main pitches in his arsenal, his fastball and his slider. According to Fangraphs, he uses his fastball 55% of the time (averages about 87 miles per hour) and his slider 44% of the time. He also uses an occasional changeup. In addition to shutting down right-handed bats this past season (.192 BAA), O’Day held lefties to a .210 average in 81 at-bats while giving up two home runs.

O’Day could fill a variety of different roles with the Nationals, depending upon what happens with Papelbon and Storen. The Nationals saw first hand in September how O’Day could dominate in the ninth. In the three saves O’Day had at Nats Park, he threw three hitless innings and struck out five batters.

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Even as he gets older in age, O’Day has still been dominant and should get at least a three-year deal from someone. Just like the Royals have shown each of the last two seasons, building a bullpen is essential to a deep run in October. If the Nats were to sign a versatile reliever in O’Day, it would be a step in the right direction.