Darren O’Day was selected in the Rule 5 draft in 2009. He is not exactly Josh Hamilton or even RA Dickey, but he is definitely one of the best Rule 5 signings in recent memory. He pitches funny, but he amassed 8.3 WAR and 578 strikeouts over the course of a solid MLB career before joining the Braves. The night that Chris Davis pitched the 16th and 17th innings of a win over the Red Sox, Darren was a part of the Baltimore’s bullpen’s efforts. He also got Buster Posey out in a postseason game.
He was acquired by the Braves in the Kevin Gausman trade. He was largely included for his hefty contract, as O’Day was on the shelf having hamstring surgery earlier in 2018. The Braves elected to swap the money, rather than part with any of their top prospects for Gausman.
What were the expectations?
Honestly, very little. O’Day was included to make the money work in the Gausman deal and was out indefinitely. He started the year on the 60-day IL with forearm tightness. In March, Brian Snitker could not give a timeline for his return saying, “it’s way too far out to know (what he’s doing when). But [Spring Training has] been positive for him.” Fangraphs expected 10 IP in 2019. Regardless, anything that we could get out of Darren O’Day was certainly a bonus.
What went right in 2019?
Darren endured a long rehab and made the roster in time for the September expanded rosters.
|Darren O'Day 2019 Stats|
Darren gave up one run in the regular season. His best appearance was September 29 versus the Mets. He accumulated .070 WPA in this game. He struck out Amed Rosario between getting two fly outs in the sixth inning.
He had four run-free outings in the NLDS. There was also this pickoff of Harrison Bader in Game 3. This would save a run because he would give up a single to Jose Martinez later in the at-bat.
What went wrong in 2019?
Darren did very little wrong in 2019. He worked his way back multiple injuries and was a productive member of the bullpen. His first outing could have went better, as he walked the only batter he faced and he ended up scoring. However, that was the only run he gave up last year. The worst thing here was that the Braves didn’t get any more out of his trade companion. Kevin Gausman put together a 6.19 ERA in 80 IP for the Braves this year, hardly the production they were expecting when they committed over 18 million for the pair in 2019.
What to expect in 2020?
O’Day is a free agent in 2020. It’s possible that the Braves will bring him back. I just wouldn’t expect him to get $9 million. Alex Anthopoulos made fixing the bullpen a priority before the trade deadline. Before his long injury rehab and return for the Braves, he had 412 appearances in which he pitched more than one innings. This is 71.4% of all pre-Braves appearances. This is notable in 2020, when there will be a three-batter minimum for relief appearances or the pitcher must be able to complete the half-inning. However, the Braves will balance their bullpen need while considering whether to bring back Josh Donaldson or some other key players. If the Braves don’t grab him, he will be able to employ his sidearm delivery and career 3.45 FIP to great effect somewhere else.