Britt Ghiroli mentioned in her recap for the second day of the Winter Meetings that Dan Duquette was working on coming to an agreement with the Tohoku Rakutan Golden Eagles of NPB’s Pacific Legue. These type of agreements are somewhat common, but rarely discussed or understood by fans.
When I first saw this deal I reached out to Patrick Newman from NPBTracker.com for some insight on what these types of agreements entail. Patrick noted:
I think at their most basic level, they are about sharing scouting information between the two teams.
This though, mostly helps the NPB team, in this case Rakutan as approximately 20-30 players go from MLB to NPB every year. The most notable player packing his things for Japan this offseason is 2012 All-Star Bryan LaHair. As Britt mentions in her piece, Duquette likely has a good relationship with Derrek White, the head scout for Rakutan. As such the O’s will likely be sending Derrek and the rest of the scouting staff at Rakutan scouting reports on any players considering going to NPB.
So What does it do for the Orioles? Patrick went on to describe the value it can have for the MLB club when it comes to posting or free agency for Japanese players:
Baltimore could actually have a leg up on the posting process/Free Agency in that they could potentially have a little more of a relationship with the players posted, and thus make a more informed decision. The A’s had a working relationship with Rakuten when the won the posting for Iwakuma, and Ichiro spent time in camp with the Mariners back in 1999 or 2000. At the least, it can’t hurt.
If you’re hoping that the O’s will get players at discounted prices, you can throw that notion out the window. During posting the bids are collected and safeguarded by the Commissioner’s office, so favoritism won’t play a role there. What this does do however is give the Orioles a little bit of a leg up when it comes to scouting players who are looking to come to MLB. As Patrick noted, Oakland was familiar with Iwakuma when he was initially posted because of their agreement with Rakutan. Similarly, Ichiro played with the Mariners long before he officially became one.
It’s possible that we can expect to see some of Rakutan’s players in camp with the Orioles soon. Additionally, we can expect the O’s to have a little bit of a leg up when it comes to assessing some of the Japanese players that come stateside.
Ultimately, it all comes down to the point Britt made in her report. Duquette wants to improve the international efforts of the team, and this is one very strong step in this direction.
Thanks to Patrick for the information, and willingness to let me quote him in this piece.