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What if the Marlins pursue Braves’ free agent Darren O’Day?

Right after having his option declined by the Braves, O’Day became one of the most accomplished relievers on the open market. Should the Marlins go after him?

League Championship - Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Six Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Braves officially declined Darren O’Day’s club option for 2021 despite costing an affordable $3.5M ($500k buyout). While this is a surprising decision, given how O’Day has performed since joining Atlanta (back in 2019), it might open the door for the Marlins to make a run at the veteran righty.

I don’t know if they will do so. But maybe they should. O’Day is one of the most accomplished relievers on the open market and won’t likely come at an expensive price. Along with Yimi García, he would give the Marlins a great, experienced late-inning tandem that could be even better if the team picks up Brandon Kintzler’s $4M option.

O’Day’s MLB career stats

The 38-year-old submariner can still get the job done. Across 16 13 innings this year, O’Day was GREAT—he won four games, didn’t lose, surrendered eight hits, two earned runs, gave up five bases on balls, and struck out 22 hitters. He finished the season with a 1.10 ERA, a 2.76 FIP, and a .080 WHIP, along with great BB/9 (2.8) and K/9 (12.1) ratios. In four total appearances against the Marlins (regular season and postseason combined), he held them scoreless.

“O’Day was also championed as the leader of the bullpen and the veteran that many of the guys went to for guidance,” writes Kris Willis of Talking Chop.

How O’Day dominates is somewhat a mystery. He relies on three pitches: an 86.0 MPH fastball, a slider he throws 42.9 percent of the time, and a sinker he barely uses (11.1%). All three deliveries are almost unhittable, according to Baseball Savant:

  • Vs. Four-seamer: 2-for-23, 1 HR, 10 K, .087 AVG, .217 SLG
  • Vs. Slider: 6-for-31, 12 K, .194 AVG, .226 SLG
  • Vs. Sinker: 0-for-5, .000 AVG, .000 SLG

You can add the fact that he cruises through high-leverage situations (based on Baseball-Reference splits). In 698 plate appearances, opponents have hit for a .194/.270/.288 slash line with more strikeouts (185) than hits (120). Just to have a reference, Marlins relievers had a 5.17 ERA in that kind of environment.

There’s no doubt Miami has to add some pieces to its bullpen and O’Day might be an exclamation point. Effective? Affordable? Experienced? O’Day’s your man! Plus blocking him from returning to a division rival would make the acquisition even sweeter.