Wednesday, January 7, 2009

O's First Foray Into Japan Brings Over Uehara

I guess Andy MacPhail noticed my apprehension, because he signed a starting pitcher that wouldn't have even been seriously considered by the team in previous years - 33 year-old Japanese right-hander Koji Uehara. The contract is for two years, $10 M with incentives that could push it to $16 M.

Sean Smith's CHONE projection for Uehara calls for 33 IP, 34 H, 4 HR, 9 BB, 29 K, 3.90 ERA (since Koji was a reliever last year in Japan, though he spent much of his career as a starter - and a very good one at that). Keith Law called him a #4 type starter in the AL. Looks like he throws around 90 mph plus a fork-ball and very good control (that'll be nice to see for a change). I assume this means he'll be penciled in as the O's #2 starter. Considering the added difficulty of being a starter as well as the extra offense in the AL East (and Uehara's less than ideal HR rates), I'd call for around a 5.00 tRA next year. With 160 IP, that would make Uehara a 2 WAR player, worth about $10 M (while he should be making $8 M at most if all of the incentives kick in). Good signing by the O's at base value, plus the extra added benefit of opening up the Japanese market to the team. Smart lowish-risk move by the O's. I'm really interested to see him pitch so at the very least, the team's probably gotten an extra $10 out of me for the upcoming season.

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