When Dan Duquette became the Baltimore Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations six years ago, he vowed to improve the team's international scouting.
With Duquette attending the annual General Managers' Meetings in Orlando, Fla., early this week, he's bound to at least think about prospects who aren't from the most frequently scouted markets and possibly meet with agents representing those players.
Duquette has been aggressive in signing international players, with the acquisition of Wei-Yin Chen, a Taiwanese left-handed pitcher, in 2012 probably his best international free-agent signing.
Chen had pitched five seasons in Japan, and the Orioles signed him to a three-year, $11.3 million contract with a fourth year option for $4.75 million.
It was a bargain.
Chen was 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA from 2012-2015, and while the Orioles would loved to have kept him, they weren't going to compete with the Miami Marlins, who signed Chen to a five-year, $80 million deal. Chen's been hurt much of the past two seasons, pitching in only 31 games for Miami.
Chen's signing in January 2012 wasn't considered Duquette's prime Asian deal of that offseason. A month earlier, another left-hander, Tsuyoshi Wada, who was much more well-known in Japan, signed a two-year, $8.15 million contract with the Orioles.
Wada underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2012 and never pitched for the Orioles.
Duquette has signed players from other parts of Asia, too. In December 2015, he made a deal with South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim. The left-handed hitter had been a big star in Korea, and the Orioles thought his two-year, $7 million contract would be an excellent value.
The deal looked good in the first year when, after a rough spring training and Kim's refusal to report to Triple-A Norfolk, he produced creditably for the Orioles.
Kim batted .302 with a team-leading .382 on-base percentage in 2016, but in 2017 he batted .232 in 56 games before he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in July for right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.
That wasn't Duquette's first major South Korean signing. Right-handed pitcher Suk-min Yoon was signed to a three-year, $5.75 million contract in February 2014, but his adjustment to major league baseball didn't go well, and a year later he was back in Korea.
The Orioles also signed a trio of Cuban players who briefly played for the team in recent years. Outfielders Henry Urrutia and Dariel Alvarez and left-handed pitcher Ariel Miranda played a combined 49 games for the team from 2013-2016.
Urrutia was released by the Orioles this past May, and after playing for the Boston Red Sox's Double-A Portland team, is now a minor league free agent.
Miranda, who pitched in one game in July 2016, was dealt to the Seattle Mariners for left-hander Wade Miley, and Alvarez underwent Tommy John surgery this past April after the Orioles tried to convert him to pitching. He remains with the organization.
Duquette signed another veteran from Japanese baseball in July 2016. Right-handed pitcher Logan Ondrusek was attempting a return to the U.S. after a season and a half abroad. Ondrusek had a 9.95 ERA in seven games in 2016. Last spring he suffered and elbow injury and was released.
Several players have tried to return to the U.S. after resurrecting their careers in Asia. This past season, outfielder Eric Thames, who hit .252 in 36 games for Norfolk in 2013, returned to the U.S. after three superb seasons in South Korea and hit 31 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Right-handed pitcher Miles Mikolas is trying a similar path. Mikolas, who had an undistinguished record in the majors (4-6 with a 5.32 ERA in 37 games with the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers from 2012-2014), would like another shot at the big leagues. Mikolas had three excellent years in Japan, and MLBTradeRumors.com has projected he'll receive a two-year, $10 million contract.
As the Orioles search everywhere for starting pitching, Duquette could take a flyer on a pitcher such as Mikolas, hoping he'll find the next Chen.