The Uncharted Asian Market, How Do You ‘Live’

The Major League Baseball transfer window is open.

The Major League Baseball offseason began in earnest on Monday with the owners’ meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona.

To use a metaphor, it’s like turning on the gas to cook. It’s where discussions about trades, free agent signings, and more begin in earnest.

It’s literally the ‘pleading stage’. Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said, “It’s about casting a wide net. We’re thinking about how this player can help the team. The next step is to see the impact he’s going to have on his teammates and the clubhouse,” he said, explaining that the search is still in its early stages.토토사이트

The frenzied transfer market will culminate with the Winter Meetings in early December and continue through February when spring training begins.

Two Japanese players have been the center of attention this offseason. Shohei Ohtani, a two-hitter, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a former ace of the Nippon Professional Baseball Orix Buffaloes. In addition, Lee Jung-hoo, who played in the KBO, is also knocking on the door of the big leagues. In particular, Yamamoto and Lee are piquing the curiosity of clubs.

While many Korean and Japanese professional baseball players have tried their hand at the big leagues, and have achieved success that cannot be ignored, it is still an “uncharted territory” for big league teams. Success in Korea or Japan is not a guarantee of success in the major leagues.

“You have to trust the eyes of the people who are evaluating the players,” said Tampa Bay Rays President Eric Nieder, adding that he trusts the recommendations of scouts who evaluate on the field. “Every new season is an ‘unknown’ anyway, whether it’s coming from the majors, Triple-A, or overseas. Nobody knows what they’re going to look like. Our job is to put together the strongest roster possible. Our scouts have spent a lot of time doing this, and we trust them, and we’re trying to build a better team with an open mind,” he said.

Texas Rangers general manager Chris Young added: “We have a tremendous group of scouts. They have a great understanding of evaluating international players. We’re trying to make the best decisions about who can help the Rangers,” he said, adding that he trusts their judgment on the field.

Farhan Zaidi, president of the San Francisco Giants, said: “You can project the numbers, but the scouts’ evaluation is the most important thing. Experienced scouts who have watched a lot of major leaguers have a good sense of how they will fit into the major leagues,” he said. “The WBC can be a good stage for evaluation. How a player performs against a big league player is very important data.”

Once the talent is identified, it’s another matter to get them acclimated to the American scene.

“Time helps,” Niender laughs. “The more time you have to prepare, the better,” he says, having recruited Yoshitomo Tsutsugo from Japan. Recently, the pandemic situation has made it difficult for players. I’m trying to make them as comfortable as possible. It’s important to understand what ‘comfortable’ means. We need to support the players and their families. It’s important that we don’t give them anything to worry about other than baseball.”

Chicago Cubs president Jed Hoyer, who has watched outfielder Seiya Suzuki’s success, acknowledged the difficulty of adjusting to the big leagues for players who have played overseas, calling it “really hard.”

“You have a sense of how the stats will translate from there, but you don’t have a good sense of how quickly it’s going to happen. It could take a year (to get to where we expect to be),” he said, noting that the adjustment is not a short one.

Cubs president Jed Hoyer (center) acknowledged that it’s not always easy for international players to adjust. Photo (Scottsdale, USA)=Jaeho Kim Correspondent
While the level of the league is high, Hoyer also emphasized that the so-called “human challenge” cannot be ignored. “You live differently, you don’t speak the same language. It’s harder to communicate with your teammates and coaches. For pitchers, the ball and the strike zone can also be a factor. The mound height is different. Baseball is different here. The style is different,” he said, acknowledging that there are many factors to overcome.

“I think the best players will be able to adapt, but it won’t be without challenges. Some players may not meet our expectations. But I think our industry is getting better and better at this.”

Compared to other free agents who have proven themselves in the majors, or prospects who have spent time in the minors acclimatizing to the American scene, this is a fairly high-profile signing.

The marketing benefits can’t be ignored. But it’s limited. Jersey sales, a common source of marketing revenue, go into the pockets of companies that have contracts with Major League Baseball, not the clubs. International broadcasting rights contracts are handled by the commissioner’s office. What teams can count on is crowd mobilization and stadium advertising. During Ryu Hyun-jin’s early days with the LA Dodgers, a number of Korean companies advertised at Dodger Stadium, and every stadium Otani plays in is plastered with ads from Japanese companies.

To put it bluntly, it’s a challenge that doesn’t offer much in the way of financial gain. Nevertheless, clubs continue to explore the uncharted Asian market. For the clubs, it’s a chance to sign more talented players.

“It’s really exciting,” says Zaidi. “It’s good for baseball. “It’s good for the game, it’s good for the sport. “It’s really exciting to evaluate these players. It’s a different experience for the front office and scouts. I think it’s great for the WBC, too, because it adds another storyline to the mix. It’s good for baseball in a lot of ways.”

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