Last season I was ecstatic to hear that the Orioles were interested in Japanese pitchers Koji Uehara, Kenshin Kawakami, Ryoji Aikawa, and Ryohei Tanaka. The Os had been lacking in global appeal for years and signing one or more Japanese players would go a long way. Marketing, increased international revenue, and some new faces are always promised when signing or drafting players from outside the US and this was no exception. With Uehara, the "Greg Maddux of Japan", pitching in the majors and Tanaka developing in the minors, the Orioles are looking to take the next step into the Asian market.
Which leads us to word that international scouting director John Stockstill is interested in former Yomirui Giants teammate of Uehara, Hisanori Takahashi, a lefty starter/reliever, and I'm thinking, good but not great.
Takahasi's a solid lefty, but at 34 years old and with an erratic ERA and a sharp decline in innings pitched (dropped from 186 2/3 innings in 2007 to 122 in 2008), it makes me wonder what they'd get. Sure, the Os could use a lefty both in the back-end of their rotation and in their bullpen but I'm not sure Takahashi is the answer.
With that said, I wanted to open the floor to other comments on the Asian markets to see if there's someone(s) out there that can help our Os.
I'm hoping Stockstill keeps his eyes on shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima of the Seibu Lions. He'll be a free agent at the end of 2010 and may decide to play in the MLB instead of Japan. He's still young enough, 28, to be effective at short and with a bat that would look pretty batting behind Brian Roberts, .298 career average with a .362 OBP and .473 slugging.
A reminder, our Os still have Ryohei Tanaka in Double-A and, while he was roughed up in the AFL, he pitched pretty well in his first season and could be a contributor in 2011, if not the end of 2010, and Uehara coming back from a injury plagued first season in the majors. Uehara will return to the team as a member of the bullpen, possibly in the closer role, and should continue to look solid if his injuries have mended.