When Dan Duquette took over the Orioles this offseason, he made it clear that he was going to target the international market. He made good on his promise with a flurry of moves, highlighted by Tsuyoshi Wada and Wei-Yin Chen, two lefties from the Nippon League.
The Orioles need to find a competitive advantage and Japan has become the focus. Andy MacPhail opened the door by signing Koji Uehara a few years ago, but Duquette has kicked it down.
Here are five players that the Orioles could target from Japan in the near future.
I'll admit that this is a little bit of a cheat, but Daisuke Matsuzaka will be a free agent at the end of the season and the pitching-starved Orioles could be a fit if he doesn't re-sign with Boston.
The Red Sox paid a fortune to sign Matsuzaka, both in the bid process and in his contract. He has really only played two or three full seasons in five years with the Sox, but he was effective when healthy. He'll become a free agent for the first time in 2013 and the Orioles could use another arm.
If Matsuzaka is healthy, I would look into signing him, however, only for less than he is making now.
I'm cheating again, but Murton could be the next American to polish his skills in Japan and return to the majors with a bang. We've already seen Colby Lewis and Ryan Vogelsong, and with Bobby Valentine set to shine this year (who said managers couldn't polish their skills too?), Murton might be next.
Matt Murton broke Ichiro's hits record in Japan in 2010 and followed with the second best batting average in 2011. He's really found a groove and should return to the majors soon after his fourth season with the Hanshin Tigers.
This is the make-or-break year for Nolan Reimold and if he can't cut it, Murton could be an option in 2013.
The Orioles already signed Suguichi's former rotation-mate Tsuyoshi Wada and they are pretty similar players. They are both smaller than most major league pitchers and they are both left-handed control pitchers. Suguichi possesses the better fastball though.
Suguichi finishes his nine years of service time this year, which means he will be able to sign with an MLB team without being posted. This could be very beneficial for the Orioles if they want to add another lefty from Japan.
You may have heard this name already this offseason because Nakajima was posted by the Seibu Lions and was ready to hit the States. The New York Yankees posted the highest bid, but failed to reach an agreement with the shortstop, so he returned to Japan.
Nakajima, like Suguichi, will be a free agent in 2013 and could be a fit in the middle infield for the O's. Brian Roberts is still a question mark at this point, so Nakajima could shift to second base to fill the void if necessary.
Kensuke Tanaka was set to come to America in 2012, but decided to stay in Japan. He could potentially make the leap in 2013 and if he does, the Orioles should take a look.
Tanaka is a second baseman and has had some success in Japan. He won't take the league by storm, but he could be a serviceable player in the majors. His career .293 average in Japan is attractive, but it remains to be seen if that will translate.