By Dan Connolly
6:27 PM EST, December 14, 2011
The Orioles announced shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday that they had signed 30-year-old Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada. An introductory conference will be held at Camden Yards at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
It won’t be as big of a deal as when the Orioles signed Koji Uehara in January 2009. Uehara was the first Japanese player signed as a free agent by the Orioles. And he was a superstar in his home country – at one point the best pitcher on the best team in Japan.
Wada is well-regarded in his home country. He was 107-61 with a 3.13 ERA in his career and has pitched in two Olympics and one World Baseball Classic for Japan. And he is younger than Koji was when he came here. So there will still be plenty of attention on Wada, especially in Japan. The signing also punctuates new executive vice president Dan Duquette’s initiative to be involved in the international market.
That said, the bidding for Japanese 25-year-old pitching phenom Yu Darvish ended at 5 p.m. Wednesday, and the Orioles were not believed to be one of the bidders. That’s no surprise. Although they have scouted Darvish for the past few years – and liked what they saw – he is expected to command a posting bid and subsequent salary that could reach close to $100 million.
The Orioles aren’t spending that in the free-agent market on one player – be it a domestic hitter or pitcher or a foreign one. It’s especially risky given the transitions that Japanese pitchers have had in coming to major league baseball and dealing with the grueling, 162-game schedule.
They took the same tactic when they didn’t offer a posting bid for Japanese right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka in 2006. They liked the pitcher but weren’t breaking the bank for him.
One more note on a free agent: Outfielder Luke Scott, who was not tendered a contract on Monday, has had roughly 10 teams call about his services – including a couple directly after midnight.
The overall list of suitors includes the Orioles, who would like to sign him back at a salary below the $6.4 million he made in 2011. Scott is coming off shoulder surgery and needs to prove he is healthy, but he is perhaps the most accomplished player who was not tendered a contract on Monday.
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