The Orioles have agreed to terms with Japanese lefty starter Tsuyoshi Wada, which reopens their pipeline to Japan, according to an industry source. He will sign a two-year, $8.15 million deal with a 2014 option worth $5 million, the source said. It is the Orioles’ first foray into the Japanese market since signing Koji Uehara before the 2009 season.
Wada may not end up as the only pitcher from Japan’s Nippon Baseball League on the roster. The club is also seriously interested in Taiwanese lefty Chen Wei-Yin, who pitched for the Chunichi Dragons. It would be unprecedented if the Orioles could land both – and perhaps a bit of a long shot considering multiple major league teams have inquired about each pitcher.
The push into the Asian market comes on the heels of news out of Korea that South Korean submariner Chong Tae-Hyon will not be joining the Orioles and instead has signed a four-year, $3.1 million deal to stay in the Korean Baseball Organization. The Orioles had offered a two-year, $3.1 million deal and had Chong in for a physical.
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette never confirmed that Chong passed his physical, saying only that the veteran right-hander was weighing another option in Korea.
The club’s attention, however, has turned to Japan and specifically Tsuyoshi Wada, who according to several sites will turn 31 in February. A soft-tossing strike thrower often compared to former Oriole Jamie Moyer, Wada pitched for Japan in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and the country’s World Baseball Classic team in 2006 that won the inaugural title. Listed at 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, Wada consistently throws his fastball in the mid-to-high 80s, but he survives on a deceptive, three-quarters delivery and the ability to throw several pitches for strikes. He also misses bats, earning him the nickname “Dr. K of Tokyo” while in college. Throughout his career, he has maintained a 3-to-1 strikeout rate or better. Last year he was 16-5 with a 1.53 ERA in 184 2/3 innings with the Hawks. He struck out 168 batters and walked 40. He became a free agent in November and did not need to be posted.
Chen, 26, also did not need to be posted because, as a Taiwan native, his length of contract in the NPB was negotiated when he signed. His fastball reaches in the low-to-mid 90s. He was 8-10 with a 2.68 ERA in 24 starts with the Chunichi Dragons while battling injuries.