One of the few remotely notable splashes that the Orioles have made in the free agent market since Dan Duquette assumed the reins was the signing of Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada. However, largely due to injury, he never actually pitched in an O's uniform. The Orioles announced on Saturday evening that they would not be picking up a $5 million option for him for 2014, meaning he made about $8 million to never pitch in the big leagues.
The move was expected, given that Wada never looked close to pitching for the big league club. O's reporters have indicated the team could attempt to sign him to a minor league deal. Duquette loves minor league deals. If he is worth anything, he will get to show his mettle for the Orioles next season. If not, I hope he liked his time in Norfolk.
Wada's signing to a two-year, $8.15 million contract was a big deal at the time, with the Orioles going so far as to have a press conference televised on MASN with Wada. That's more than they even did for the signing of the much younger and more successful Wei-Yin Chen. Perhaps I could more accurately say that the Orioles made a big deal out of the signing. He was not regarded as well by outside observers.
Though there were inevitable comparisons to Koji Uehara, with Baltimore sports media weirdly acting during that press conference as if all Japanese baseball players knew Koji, Wada never got a chance to show if he could turn into something like Koji. ESPN's Keith Law noted at the time that while Uehara could succeed with a below-average fastball, Wada's was even slower, with his chances of big league success being much more slim.
Any hopes of getting value out of Wada were quickly derailed. He ended up undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2012 , knocking him out until this year. In 19 starts for Triple-A Norfolk, he threw 102.2 innings with a 4.03 ERA. That's not earth-shattering results, though over his final six starts he pitched 37.2 innings and only allowed six runs. Perhaps something clicked after a while, or perhaps it was just luck.
The Orioles also hold a 2014 option for sporadic utility infielder and failed pinch-runner Alexi Casilla, which must be exercised or declined by Tuesday. They are also expected to decline that $3 million option.