Baltimore Orioles: Recent Signings Good for Both the Present and Future

Lawrence BarrecaAnalyst IJanuary 17, 2009

When I refer to "recent signings" in the article title, I'm referring to two players, starter Koji Uehara and catcher Gregg Zaun.

Before I start discussing each of the benefits that they bring, we have to take a glance at their individual contracts.

Koji Uehara signed a two-year deal with the Orioles, worth $10 million with incentives.  His contract may be worth up to $16 million if he meets certain performance bonuses.

Gregg Zaun signed a one-year contract worth $1.5 million with a club option for 2010, where they would have the option of paying him $2 million or just buying him out for $500K. 

My opinion on the contracts: They are good enough for me. The O's received two veterans for relatively cheap. At first glance, these two signings seem bland, but what these two players help to achieve is so much more.

Let us start with Uehara.

If you ask any Oriole fan what they would like to see differently from the pitching staff this season, you just might hear them say that they want to see less walks. Many will explain how walks have killed this team on many occasions in past seasons. If you have watched any O's games over the last few years, you would be hasty to agree.

We have all been disgusted watching pitchers Daniel Cabrera, Garrett Olson, Radhames Liz, etc. give up numerous runs due to an incredibly large amount of walks. I feel like I'm typing the word "walks" to much. 

Well, it's a good thing the O's brought in Uehara, for he should give all us O's fans something to feel good about.

One thing that Uehara isn't is wild. 

In his Japanese career, the right-hander went 112-62, with a 3.01 ERA over 10 seasons. He also struck out 1,376 hitters and walked only 206 batters. Only 206 batters! 

I wouldn't be surprised if Daniel Cabrera walked that many in only two seasons. 

Uehara is accurate. He hits his spots. He is a flyball pitcher. He's what the O's need. 

Back to the fly-ball pitcher reference for a moment. This shouldn't be a problem, unless those fly-balls soar over the fence. With Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Luke Scott/Lou Montanez/Nolan Reimold in the outfield, we shouldn't be too worried about baseballs hitting the ground.

Now we will hit on the accurate comment. 

With stud catching prospect Matt Wieters coming up to the majors sometime this season, the O's will need a pitcher that can make his debut a bit easier. What's easier than a pitcher throwing exactly where you want him to throw it?

Sure, the language barrier will be a problem for a bit, but hey, if the Red Sox can do it, then so can we! (I keep saying that about the World Series and it keeps failing. Let's hope it works this time.)

The final benefit that Uehara brings to the organization is where he's from. 

This is the first time ever that the O's have signed a Japanese native.  This helps to give the Orioles an extra edge in the future when it comes to signing Japanese born players. Uehara said it best himself:

"I would like to open the door for the Orioles that will allow them to welcome other Japanese players. I'm going to be the one who is the first."

Ahhh, that is music to my ears. Before I stop talking about Koji, if you want to see him pitch, here is a YouTube video of him in Japan.

Now to Gregg Zaun.

Last season, Zaun hit for a .237 average, with six home runs, 30 RBI, and 29 runs scored in 245 at-bats.

Now with the stats out of the way, let's look at what benefits that he will bring.

First and foremost, Zaun is here for one reason: To be a stopgap catcher until Matt Wieters arrives. That is his role, and I'm sure that he understands it. Come Opening Day, however, this switch-hitting veteran must be the starter, something that he shouldn't have any problem handling.

Besides being a stop-gap, he also has a different role. 

He must be a teacher, both to Matt Wieters and to the young pitchers currently with the big-league club. I was afraid that we would have to see Wieters being taught by Ramon Hernandez, but now that he is in Cincinnati, I can breathe a lot easier. 

Zaun should bring the veteran leadership that this team needs, especially with all of the young talent racing through the minors.

Zaun brings a different approach than Uehara, but they are both here for the same reason. They are both now within the organization to help fill in while the studs play their way through the system. 

For now, their roles seem simple.

But what they are really bringing to the table is so much more.

Let's just watch how it all pans out.


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