At Saturday's FanFest, Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette deflected a question when asked directly about interest in Korean pitcher Suk-min Yoon. He was responding to a report that the Orioles had attended a workout by Yoon in California. "You know I can't talk about that," he said.
This is different from another frequent Duquette response, "I don't know where that report came from," which is the kind of thing that is either significant or you psych yourself into thinking it's significant because it's not like the Orioles are doing anything else worth thinking about.
On Monday, there was another link between the Orioles and Yoon coming from a Korean outlet. The Korea JoongAng Daily reported the Orioles as being the front-runners for landing Yoon, one of five teams interested in him. That's quite a different story from a couple of years ago when the Orioles managed to get banned from scouting in South Korea.
Yoon is a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher, a nine-year veteran of the Korean Baseball Organization's Kia Tigers. He appears to actually exist in some form resembling the scouting reports, which is also a departure from the recent past for the Orioles with a Korean player. One big difference is that Yoon is a professional; Seong-min Kim was an amateur. Yoon is represented by the Boras Corporation.
The best case scenario for Yoon would probably be if he turns into another Wei-Yin Chen-type signing (also a Boras client), largely under the radar, modest in cost, a solid if unremarkable mid-rotation starter. Maybe Yoon is capable of being that, if the Orioles actually sign him. Does he count as the veteran starter Duquette claims to want to add if his experience is only in Korea? We will find out.
It's easy to understand the appeal of trying to pick mid-rotation starters from Asia when considering the kinds of contracts that even relatively-poor MLB starting pitchers have gotten from teams this off-season. Phil Hughes got $24 million guaranteed over three years, for crying out loud.
The players who come over from professional leagues in Asia - at least the ones who aren't on Masahiro Tanaka's level - have much more uncertainty around them and that's reflected in the contracts they receive. There's still risk, as the Orioles know since they flushed $9 million down the toilet on Tsuyoshi Wada. If they hit often enough, it's still worth it.