Quick thoughts on international signings

JapanKoji Uehara

With news that the Orioles have agreed to terms with Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, that they are pursuing Taiwanese lefty Chen Wei-Yin and that they attempted but failed to sign Korean Chong Tae-Hyon, it’s obvious the club’s international program is stepping up to a new level under new executive vice president Dan Duquette.

There needs to be some caution here, though.

The three players mentioned above – and Koji Uehara, who was signed by the Orioles before the 2009 season – are all established pros. They have a track record in their countries and the only question is whether they can make the jump in competition level, not whether they can be developed into good players.

Simply put, the Orioles are buying these particular foreign players. And that’s fine for a team trying to fill holes on the major-league level.

Now they need to start developing foreign players – finding the diamonds in the rough throughout the world and mining them. That’s tough to do in Japan, where most high school players dream of playing Nippon Professional Baseball.

But there are so many other countries to tap. And the Orioles need to – and apparently are trying – to do that. They have found players recently from Colombia, Curacao and Venezuela. They are looking into other South American countries trying to unearth a player or two that can develop into something.

Though those efforst began before he arrived, Duquette has championed that idea. He’s brought in Fred Ferreira, who is renowned for discovering those kinds of players throughout the world.

But until the Orioles can do it consistently, the skepticism will remain.

It’s nice to add international flavor with pros from Japan.

But the real test will be in five or seven years when you look up and down the Orioles system to see if it contains legitimate prospects from Caribbean and South American countries.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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