With so many benefits in both the baseball and business sides of the game, why haven’t the Blue Jays invested in the Asian market?
By now, the baseball world knows about the talent in the Cuban and Dominican markets. Front offices regularly give out lucrative multi-million dollar contracts to relatively unknown commodities in hopes of signing the next Yoenis Cespedes or Jose Fernandez. However, the talent acquisition cost of these Cuban and Dominican players have risen to the point that they are no longer “low-risk, high-reward” players. Instead, scouts have turned to players in Japan and South Korea whose talent could translate into a cheap, valuable asset.
What Asian Players Bring In The Baseball Side Of Things
Japanese and Korean players have talent, and lots of it. At the very least, they are experienced baseball players that can serve as good depth for the organization (think Munenori Kawasaki) with potential to become a superstar (think Yu Darvish). However, a more realistic expectation is for Asian players to quickly become an above-average regular at a very cheap price tag.
Over the years, the Blue Jays have missed the chance to fill their roster holes with cheap, yet talented players. Perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in recent years was the chance to sign Seung-Hwan Oh, or the “Final Boss”, now the closer of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Player A: 1.92 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 11.6 SO9
Player B: 5.23 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.4 SO9
Player C: 1.01 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 15.5 SO9
Player A is Seung-Hwan Oh, who is set to earn around a $6 mil salary in 2017 while producing at an All-Star caliber level. Player B is Drew Storen, arguably the most disappointing Blue Jay in 2016 who commanded a hefty $8.4 mil salary. And finally, Player C is Aroldis Chapman who slightly outperforms Oh, but just recently secured a whopping $17.2 mil average salary for the next 5 years.
What Asian Players Bring In The Business Side Of Things
Baseball is one of the national sports for both Japan and Korea. Not only do Asian players live up to the contract they signed, their mere acquisition can immediately bring profit to an organization.
When a national star player makes the jump overseas to play in the MLB, broadcasting companies line up in order to sign a contract for the broadcasting rights. Also, an Asian player can often be a team leader in jersey sales with a whole nation ordering the jersey of their favorite ball player. And finally, organizations often see a spike in ticket sales with the signing of a popular Asian player. The Rogers Centre could quickly become a destination for Korean and Japanese tourists wanting to watch a national icon play in the highest level of baseball.
Opportunity Is Still Wide Open
Fortunately, it is not too late for the Blue Jays to invest scouts in the Asian market. The talent acquisition cost for Asian players still remains ridiculously low and an option the Jays should still consider is Ah-Seop Son, a speedy, left-handed, on base machine outfielder (.323/.402/.464 career stat line). Unlike Cuban and Dominican players, there is almost no risk with Asian players because of the immediate profit they can bring from their signing. A “no-risk, high-reward” player is a no-brainer and the Blue Jays should jump at the opportunity to have a competitive advantage over the rest of the MLB.