After the Yankees cleared up $9M in a salary dump, sending Adam Ottavino to Boston, fans speculated on how that money will be spent. Wednesday afternoon, one of what should be a couple of answers to that question was revealed, when Lindsey Adler reported that New York has signed RHP Darren O’Day to a one-year, $2.5M deal with an option for 2022.
The 38-year-old O’Day is no stranger to The Bronx, spending seven years of his 13-year career as an opposing reliever in Baltimore. O’Day left the division before 2019, signing a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves, who he then re-upped with for 2020. O’Day’s only problem in Atlanta was staying on the field, as he pitched in only eight games in 2019 due to a forearm injury. However, when O’Day was on the rubber, he was all the Braves could’ve asked for, pitching to a 1.25 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 3.97 xFIP, and 3.13 SIERA with a 31.8 K% and 6.8 BB% while facing 88 batters in his two years in Atlanta. The sidearmer O’Day has seen an increase in his K% over the past few years, while he has avoided regression as his spin rate and velocity has stayed consistent. The K% is probably best described by a significant jump in his swing & miss % on his slider, which jumped from 27.8% on 158 pitches in 2018 to 35.1% on 112 pitches in 2020.
O’Day’s fit on the Yankees is pretty simple: he’s a cheaper Adam Ottavino, but slightly better. Both pitchers have deliveries that are tough on righties, seemingly throwing from behind them. Unsurprisingly, this leads to both having pretty extreme splits when it comes to lefties vs righties. O’Day slots in as a righty specialist that Aaron Boone will have to be creative with given the three-batter minimum rule. The Yankees hope O’Day can replicate the production of the past two years, helping the team get to the three-headed monster in the back half of the bullpen.
If O’Day replaces Ottavino, the Yankees still need someone to replace Tommy Kahnle. Kahnle’s production against lefties was a huge draw for him, and the Yankees are in dire need of someone to get lefties out during the middle innings. With about $8M left to spend before they hit the luxury tax, plus rumors of a possible reunion with Brett Gardner, the team will probably have the money for one more real impact reliever. Righty Trevor Rosenthal and lefty Andrew Chafin are both very good against both sides of the plate and could be fantastic fits in The Bronx.
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