Orioles Sign Lefty Wei-Yin Chen

The Orioles have added some depth to their rotation by bringing back left-handed pitcher Bruce Chen! Wait, no… that’s left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, coming over from Japan (though he is Taiwanese – woops) as Dan Duquette continues investing in the international market.

Chen’s only 26 years old will get three years and $12 M, which seems like a fine deal. His career numbers in the NPB include a 7.1 K/9 (though it was down to 5.1 last year, which is mildly concerning), a 2.2 BB/9, and an 0.7 HR/9. Chen is supposed to be a harder thrower than Tsuyoshi Wada, coming in in the low 90s with his fastball (complemented with a slider – potentially plus, according to Keith Law). Using the same kinds of translations as with Wada:

Here are Chen’s last three years: 

Year IP HR BB K “FIP”
2009 164 10 40 146 2.94
2010 188 21 49 153 3.81
2011 164.2 9 31 94 3.33

Adjusting the last year for the new NPB ball:

Year IP HR BB K “FIP”
2009 164 10 40 146 2.94
2010 188 21 49 153 3.81
2011 164.2 14 34 86 3.90

Translating to MLB: 

Year IP HR BB K “FIP”
2009 164 17 45 132 3.74
2010 188 35 55 138 5.04
2011 164.2 24 38 77 4.83

Using a 3-2-1 weighting for more recent years: 

Year IP HR BB K “FIP”
2012 172.1 26 45 107 4.73

And then regressing 50% to the mean for the rates: 

Year IP HR BB K “FIP”
2012 172.1 23 50 118 4.42

A 4.50 FIP in even 120 IP for the first year, with some decline in years two and three, still would leave the contract "fair" the O’s. $4 M isn’t a crazy amount to play for a quality reliever (thought three years might be excessive), which seems like a reasonable expectation – and given that Chen is left-handed, I imagine that unless he crashes and burns some team would be interested in maybe trading for him.

It’s a nice low-risk, medium reward move, and a much preferred alternative to giving multiple years to, say, Joe Saunders (who is probably a surer bet for a 4.50 FIP but doesn’t have the potential up-side). The O’s starting rotation now has some serious depth of average ot below arms; Guthrie, Britton, Arrieta, Chen, Wada, Tillman, Matusz, Simon, Eveland, Bergesen. The O’s should have their starters go 3-4 innings and then bringing in another "starter" for 3-4 more each game! Thinking outside the box! Add in Berken and Jim Johnson to close things out – hey, it could work (I’d pay $5 to see them try this for two weeks, maybe after they’re clearing out of contention just to keep people from freaking out as much).