The Orioles have been criticized a lot over the past few years for the fact that they haven't had much of an impact on the international market.
When Dan Duquette was hired as the team's new executive vice president of baseball operations, many speculated that it could signal an increase in the Orioles' international efforts and that began Monday with the signing of Korean pitcher Chong Tae-Hyon, as reported by MLB.com via a Tweet by Brittany Ghiroli.
Chong Tae-Hyon is described by scouts as an "extreme sidearmer," as reported by CBS Sports' Danny Knobler, which may remind some of former Oriole reliever, Chad Bradford. In fact, the Orioles have had a lot of sidearm pitchers recently with Cla Meredith, Mark Worrell and the recently acquired Darren O'Day.
It appears he will make the leap straight from the Korean league to the majors, which is a first in MLB history. He will also join Shin-Soo Choo as the only Korean players in the majors.
The Orioles are clearly entering a relatively untapped market with the intent of finding a competitive advantage and that seems to me like the exact thing to do for a team in the deadly AL East. Countries like Korea, Japan, Venezuala and others could be the pipeline the Orioles need to find stars where many others aren't looking.
The question remains whether or not this is a start of things to come or just a singular international signing. The Orioles have had international signings in the past, such as Koji Uehara and Jonathan Schoop, but they really haven't had the same push as teams like the Red Sox, Yankees and others.
I think that Chong Tae-Hyon is just the beginning for the Orioles. The Orioles have already shown interest in Yu Darvish, but I see that as a long shot.
That said, I think that the Orioles might be ready to pounce on some of the other players coming from Japan this year. I wouldn't be surprised if the Orioles pursued pitchers such as Hisashi Iwakuma, Wei-Yin Chen, or Tsuyoshi Wada. Norichika Aoki could also be a target. Patrick of NPB Tracker also lists the Orioles as a candidate to bid on shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima if he is posted.
The Orioles are clearly in need of some help and it couldn't hurt to look for some help outside of the United States. Dan Duquette has already dipped his toe in the water and I think he's preparing to jump into the pool.
UPDATE: Chong Tae-Hyon has decided to stay in Korea, although the Orioles were his other choice. The Orioles are, however, close to a deal with Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada and are pushing hard for Wei-Yin Chen.