Orioles Sign First Japanese Player
Took me a day to get this up because of an airport-to-airport shuffle, but the Orioles officially signed their first Japanese starting pitcher yesterday, inking Koji Uehara to a two-year deal worth $10 million, though the deal also has another $6 million in reachable incentives.
Adding Uehara is a start, but in truth he's not the Japanese starter the organization has truly been after. That's Kenshin Kawakami, who the team reportedly is still negotiating with despite earlier claiming that they'd given his agents their final offer.
None of that means that Uehara won't be a solid addition. Far from it. But no matter how people analyze Uehara's game while he was pitching with the Yomiuri Giants -- he was a closer for the Japanese Yankees last year -- he's not a top-of-the-rotation guy.
In fact, former Blue Jays personnel wonk turned ESPN analyst Keith Law ranked Uehara 22nd on his annual list of top-available free agents. For that spot, Uehara seems like a steal. But Law ranked him there for specific reasons: He anticipated the former Giant ending up on a National League team with a hitter's park.
More specifically, here's what Law's scouting report had to say about the future Camden Yards starter:
In the American League, he'd be more of a fourth starter, but would have to have some luck keeping the ball in the park to keep his ERA under 4.00.
There you go: Koji Uehara, your new Orioles No. 4 starter. Now, he really could be a solid No. 4 if Baltimore finds a way to sign Kawakami, but all signs are that the Braves are putting on a big press for him right now, so there's serious company for his services. We could find out by the end of the week where he ends up, and how that affects Baltimore's chase to add more arms.
And just for good measure, here's another terrific Patrick Newman take on the Uehara signing. It's a comprehensive recap of a significant move in Japanese baseball, as is always the case with NPB Tracker.
January 7, 2009; 3:53 PM ET
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