The Braves have turned down right-handed reliever Darren O’Day’s $3.5MM club option for 2021 in favor of a $500K buyout, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports. O’Day is now the second notable reliever to have a team decline his option today, joining the Indians’ Brad Hand, who could earn $10MM in 2021 if another club acquires him.

While O’Day isn’t as noteworthy or expensive as Hand, it’s nonetheless surprising to see the Braves give him up. With the league coming off a pandemic-shortened season sans fans, though, these moves could be a sign of negative things to come for the players this winter. It seems relievers will face some economic adversity in free agency, but it’s possible the open market will prove to be disappointing for most or all players, regardless of position.

No matter how free agency does shake out across the league, O’Day currently looks like one of the most accomplished relievers on the open market. Despite averaging around 86 mph on his fastball throughout his career, O’Day has been highly effective with a handful of teams since he debuted in 2008. The longtime Oriole owns a 2.51 ERA/3.43 FIP with 9.36 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9 in 576 2/3 innings in the majors.

The Braves acquired O’Day from the O’s in the 2018 season, but his year had already ended on account of a hamstring issue. Anthony injury, this time to his forearm, kept O’Day out until September of last season, but he was able to end on a positive note with five strong innings. The Braves then re-signed O’Day to a guaranteed $2.5MM last winter, and he went on to deliver in 2020 with 16 1/3 innings of eight-hit, three-run ball, also notching 22 strikeouts against five walks. But that excellent performance was not enough to convince the Braves to keep O’Day around for what looked like a reasonable sum.

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