The book is closed on another bizarre saga of a player signed from an Asian country by the Orioles under Dan Duquette. On Thursday there was news of Suk-min Yoon, who last year signed a three-year deal with the O's that was worth $5.575 million. The news is this: He's headed back to South Korea after only one year in the O's system.
It's little surprise the situation proved to be a disappointing one for Yoon. Though the O's signed him to a major league contract, meaning he was on the 40-man roster, he never looked like he was on the path to the big leagues. In August, he was removed from the 40-man and he did not even receive an invitation to big league camp this season. That means he wasn't required to report to minor league camp until tomorrow, and it seems he would rather remain in his home country than give it another shot in the O's organization.
Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported that Yoon was disappointed with not getting invited to camp, given that the Orioles will give a chance to just about anybody. If I was a baseball player that would probably sting me as well.
What does it mean for the O's if Yoon never reports? They get out of paying him a little over $4 million remaining on his contract, for one. A player who does not report gets placed on the restricted list and does not get paid. That's real money. Encina and other O's writers reported that the two sides are working on an arrangement that would release Yoon from his contract. Maybe that will be finalized. You never know with this stuff.
Of the Yoon situation, O's manager Buck Showalter said, "He's going to be fine. We wish him well." He also said, "Pitch better." Yoon had a 5.74 ERA in 23 games, 18 starts, for the Norfolk Tides last season. That would get you into the Orioles rotation last decade, but not this one.
The time prior to Yoon that the O's tried to sign a player out of South Korea, that player was 17-year-old Seong-min Kim, who turned out to quite literally not be what the Orioles first said he was, in the sense that he was both shorter and pitching with a much different arsenal than they described. Also, they did not follow the correct procedure in trying to sign him and for a time their scouts were banned from South Korean baseball games.
There was also Tsuyoshi Wada, a Japanese pitcher they signed to a two-year contract worth about $8 million. The organization made such a big deal of this that they had a televised press conference on MASN to introduce him, with a translator and everything. Wada needed Tommy John surgery and never ended up pitching in Baltimore before they let him go at the end of the contract.
Because life's like that, Wada went over to the Cubs and started 13 games at the MLB level last year, pitching 69.1 innings with a 3.25 ERA. It's enough to make you wonder what the O's did wrong that they were never able to make that work. On the other hand, maybe this is one of those things where the league difference can explain a lot of it. National League lineups are weaker and not only because of the pitchers.
The O's have had their success getting pitchers from that market. Wei-Yin Chen has been a mainstay of the rotation for three seasons and figures to be again this year. The team will end up paying him a little more than $15 million for those four years. He has a 3.86 ERA in 515.1 MLB innings.
Even if you add in the monetary cost of the signings that didn't work out, the O's have still probably come out ahead just from Chen succeeding. It just feels worse because the ones that didn't work out ended up not working out in very strange ways. Hopefully Duquette's next foray into a player from one of the Asian professional leagues works out better than the last one.