Chen Wei-yin made local baseball history earlier this week when he signed a three-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles of the American League, becoming the first Taiwan-born player to sign with a Major League team out of Japan after a successful campaign with the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
The 26-year-old lefty starter out the former Kaohsiung County’s Kaoyuan Vocational High School, whose list of distinguished alumni includes former Major Leaguer Tsao Chin-hui, Chen Yong-chi (former minor leaguer with the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s, and currently CPBL Uni-President Lions shortstop), Cheng Hong-chi (former minor leaguer with the Toronto Blue Jays and current Brother Elephants reliever), and Lin Ying-jeh (Sinon Bulls starter) will likely become the Orioles’ third starter in a rotation that also includes Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks to give manager Buck Showalter some quality help in a competitive AL Eastern Division.
Chen Wei-yin’s impressive resume is highlighted by the NPB Central League’s ERA title of 1.54 in 2009 and a solid 2.68 ERA in the four seasons he spent with the Dragons. He possesses a fastball that clocks consistently in the low-to-mid 90s (mph) to complement a forkball that has a decent break and a slider that runs down-and-in against right-handed batters. What has made him very tough to hit against in the NPB is his out pitch, which is a hybrid of a slider and curveball often called a “slurve” pitch.
While his signing may not be a surprise to baseball experts in the US, Japan and Taiwan, the length of his contract did raise some questions, with several recent signings out of Japan by various MLB teams falling short of expectations.
“It’s a unique situation based upon [Chen’s] age, the fact that he’s left-handed, our need and the acquisition cost was really [just] the cost of the contract,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said of Chen Wei-yin’s signing on the Orioles’ Web site.
“So in this case, we thought it was reasonable to extend him for the third year. You never know what’s going to happen, but in Chen’s case, taking all those factors into consideration, it was reasonable,” Duquette added.
The terms of his contract include a signing bonus of US$250,000, with a base salary of US$3.07 million this year, US$3.57 million next year and US$4.07 million in 2014, with a club option of US$6 million for 2015 if he could pitch in 56 starts between next year and 2014 or pack in at least 360 innings over the same span. The performance-based bonus portion of the contract includes a US$100,000 bonus for appearing in at least 30 starts or 200 innings, a US$50,000 bonus for selection to the All-Star team and a US$150,000 bonus if he wins the Cy Young Award.
The Orioles were among at least a half-dozen Major League teams that showed serious interest in him over the past two years. He will join the Beltway rivals of fellow Taiwanese right-hander Wang Chien-ming’s team, the Washington Nationals of the National League.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity that I will finally get to be playing in the Majors, and I will try my best to help [the Orioles] win a championship,” Chen Wei-yin said in a book-signing appearance in Taipei on Thursday.
He was joined by compatriot and lefty setup man Kuo Hong-chih of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who has spent the last 11 years with that team in various roles.
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