Boston Red Sox among teams targeting Darren O’Day


Repairing a bullpen that ranked near the button of the league is among the chief priorities for the Boston Red Sox this offseason, so it’s no surprise that they are rumored to be among the teams with heavy interest in free agent reliever Darren O’Day.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reveals that the Red Sox will face some stiff competition from at least a handful of other teams for the 33-year old reliever’s services. O’Day is coming off of a career year, making his first All-Star team, while posting a sparkling 1.52 ERA that ranked third in the American League among relievers with a minimum of 40 innings pitched. He also tied for sixth with an 0.93 WHIP and his 82 strikeouts were the seventh most by a reliever.

O’Day set career highs in most categories, including several that extend beyond the standard stats. He posted the best marks of his career in FIP (2.49), ERA+ (274), K/9 (11.3) and K/BB ratio (5.86), to name a few. However, this wasn’t merely an out of the blue contract year performance, as O’Day has been one of the game’s most dominant middle relievers over the last several years. During his last four years with the Baltimore Orioles, O’Day has never thrown less than 62 innings while compiling a 1.92 ERA and a strikeout rate of 9.7 K/9.

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Teams are starting to realize the importance of building a reliable bullpen, having just watched the Kansas City Royals win a World Series on the strength of their dominant core of relievers. Wade Davis was the team’s most valuable pitcher, posting a 3.4 WAR that ranked second in the league among relievers and 14th among all pitchers. Davis eventually took over the closer role for the Royals, but prior to that he was deployed in situations where it was most vital to shut down their opponent. Is the heart of the order coming up in the 7th inning of a tie game? Send him out there. Need him to get more than three outs? No problem. Games are often lost when teams stubbornly hold their best reliever for the final three outs of a “save situation.” The best bullpens have a shutdown reliever that can handle any situation whenever they are called upon.

O’Day, who was third among relievers with a 2.8 WAR, can be Boston’s version of Davis. If the plan is to follow the Royals’ blueprint to building a dominant bullpen, it’s essential to get a guy like that and O’Day is the best option on the free agent market.

The Red Sox are bound to explore the trade market as well, with names like Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman flouting around the rumor mill. Given the age and injury uncertainty surrounding incumbent closer Koji Uehara, it would be wise to add a piece to the bullpen with closer experience. Either of those elite options that teams are salivating over would likely supplant Uehara in the role, but other lesser options will still be considered. O’Day has limited closing experience, so Boston likely isn’t targeting him with the intention of moving him into the ninth inning.

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Regardless of who ends up with the glorified closer title, someone still needs to help get the ball to them if the starters aren’t able to hang in there long enough to do it themselves. O’Day is the best man available for the job, so expect the Red Sox to make him one of their top targets this winter.