Orioles agree to terms with Japanese pitcher Wada
Left-hander pitched to 1.53 ERA in Japan last season; club also pursuing Taiwanese lefty Chen
Tsuyoshi Wada pitches for Japan against the U.S. in the bronze medal game of the 2008 Olympics. (Getty photo / August 23, 2008)
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He might have done both with one move.
According to an industry source, the Orioles agreed to terms Tuesday with 30-year-old Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada on a two-year, $8.15 million deal that also includes a $5 million option for 2014.
Duquette and the Orioles have not confirmed the pact.
Wada, a soft-tossing, strike-throwing lefty, starred for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks before becoming an unrestricted free agent Dec. 1. He did not need to be posted — there was no bidding process for negotiating rights — and, reportedly, several other teams expressed interest in Wada, including the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
When the deal is official, Wada would become the second player to come directly to Baltimore from Nippon Professional Baseball, arriving three years after current Texas Rangers reliever Koji Uehara joined the Orioles.
It's possible that another pitcher from Japan's pro baseball league is also on his way.
The Orioles have serious interest in Taiwanese left-hander Chen Wei-Yin and are working on getting a deal done, according to the source.
Chen, 26, who was 8-10 with a 2.68 ERA in 24 starts for the Chunichi Dragons, is also an unrestricted free agent because he negotiated the length of his original contract when he came to Japan from Taiwan.
Given his age, perceived upside and a fastball that sits in the low 90s, Chen is expected to command a longer and more lucrative contract then Wada. Landing both would be an unprecedented feat for an Orioles club that has traditionally struggled to recruit international talent.
Tuesday's push into the Asian market dovetails with news 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 come to Baltimore for a physical last month.
Duquette, however, has never confirmed that the 33-year-old pitcher passed his physical. He would say only that Chong saw the club's doctors and was weighing another option in Korea.
The club's attention has turned to Wada, who has been compared to former Oriole Jamie Moyer and Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden. 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 strikeout-walk ratio of 3-to-1 or better. In 2011, he was 16-5 with a 1.53 ERA in 1842/3 innings with the Hawks. He struck out 168 batters and walked 40.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter wouldn't talk specifically about Wada or Chen. Speaking in general terms, however, Showalter said he supports the idea of targeting international talent.
"I like it. It opens up a lot of doors for us," Showalter told The Baltimore Sun while attending the club's annual holiday party for children Tuesday. "One of Dan's strengths is in that [international] market. With his abilities and knowledge in that area, it can create a lot of opportunities for us. You are not giving up players, you are not losing people out of the draft and you are not making any huge financial commitments.
"But the bottom line is: Can they get guys out? Can they pitch?"
Besides Wada and Chen, the Orioles have also scouted two of this year's biggest international prizes, Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish, who has been posted, and Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who cannot become a free agent until he establishes residency in the Dominican Republic.
With the exception of Uehara and some current prospects in the minor league system, the Orioles have had little to no success on the international scene in recent years.