Wednesday, December 14, 2011

O's sign Tsuyoshi Wada, 'Dr. K of Tokyo'

Yesterday, the Orioles agreed to terms with Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who will likely be given every chance to make the starting rotation. The deal is for two years and $8.15 million, with a 2014 option of $5 million.

Here's a pretty good description of Wada, courtesy of the Dan Connolly link above:
A soft-tossing strike thrower often compared to former Oriole Jamie Moyer, Wada pitched for Japan in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and the country’s World Baseball Classic team in 2006 that won the inaugural title.

Listed at 5 feet 10, 170 pounds, Wada consistently throws his fastball in the mid-to-high 80s, but he survives on a deceptive, three-quarters delivery and the ability to throw several pitches for strikes. He also misses bats, earning him the nickname “Dr. K of Tokyo” while in college. Throughout his career, he has maintained a 3-to-1 strikeout rate or better.
Dr. K of Tokyo? Not bad. Hopefully his strikeout skills translate to Baltimore. Wada, who turns 31 in February, probably won't have the easiest time pitching in the AL East (meaning he'll fit right in with the O's), but if he struggles as a starter, he should be able to pitch competently out of the bullpen. I'm sure that's not what the O's are hoping for, but who knows exactly how effective he'll be. And for two years and about $8 million, he won't have to be completely dominant to be worth that contract.

Over at Camden Crazies, Daniel Moroz brings up a good point about the signing:
Relatively low risk, low-to-medium return type move, though it does make the Dana Eveland trade look even worse (how many soft-tossing starters does one team need in the AL East?). It is nice to see the team going after international players though, and maybe if Wada has some success the O's can turn him into a younger player with some upside at the trade-deadline.
Why did the O's trade for Eveland in the first place? There are pitchers out there similar to Eveland who can be signed or acquired for very little.

Anyway, it doesn't seem like the O's are done trying to upgrade the pitching staff. Their deal with Korean reliever Chong Tae-Hyon has fallen apart (he decided to stay in Korea), so the O's may be looking for more pitchers. Connolly also notes that the O's are "seriously interested in Taiwanese lefty Chen Wei-Yin," who is younger than Wada, throws harder, and is generally rated higher.

(For a more in-depth discussion of Wada, I suggest you read this Eno Sarris piece over at FanGraphs.)