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Japanese Pitchers, The Non-Hype Division

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You're all probably sick of Japanese pitchers, right?  Well, there's another one that's apparently on the market, and the Yankees are reportedly interested in him:

Wei-Ying Chen is a 26 year-old, 6’0″ 176 pound left-handed pitcher for the Chunichi Dragons.

In Chen’s career with the Dragons, he has gone 36-30 with a 2.59 ERA, 7.2 k/9, and 2.2 bb/9.  His best season was in 2009, when he led the league in ERA with a gaudy 1.54 (league average was 3.55)

Now, by my own admission I have never heard of him nor do I think he'd be a good or a bad signing.  I do, however, think that this type of scenario is probably where teams would be best served scouring the Japanese leagues for talent.

Let me explain.

Whatever you think of Yu Darvish, everyone agrees that it's going to cost somewhere close to $100 million to acquire him, between the posting fee and the resultant contract.  It's a high-risk/high-reward gamble.

That's not automatically bad, but medium-risk/medium-reward is more palatable.  Medium-risk/medium-reward is typically what most teams go after, what most successful free agent contracts are.  It might be boring, but it's what typically works.

By this logic, you could argue that the most successful Japanese player to come across the Pacific in the last decade was Akinori Iwamura.  The Rays posted a modest $4.5 million to acquire him prior to the 2007 season, then signed him to a 3-year/$7.7 million dollar contact.  In exchange for this, they got 6.6 WAR over three seasons, and then traded him to the Pirates prior to 2010 for a reliever who they quickly re-shipped to Atlanta for Rafael Soriano.


Wei-Ying Chen may never reach the majors, but that's not the point.  There are probably many Japanese starters who are virtually anonymous to us, but could capably cut it as 3rd or 4th starters in the USA.  American teams ignore them at their own peril.