UPDATE: Chong decided to stay in Korea, accepting a three year deal from one of their teams. Not a big loss but it would’ve been an interesting signing.
The Orioles have signed 2B/3B Matt Antonelli and Korean RHP Chong Tae-Hyon to major league contracts.
Antonelli is a former first round pick and was once a highly regarded prospect for the San Diego Padres. He gets a one year deal with a chance to be a starter at either second or third base. Most likely he’ll be a solid option off the bench but if Mark Reynolds starts at first base or Brian Roberts isn’t healthy to start the season he has a chance. He has a solid glove and is good at getting on base. He has decent power for a second baseman. Over 300 at bats for AAA Syracuse he batted .297/.393/.460 with 19 doubles, 3 triples, 8 HRs, 30 RBI, and 6 stolen bases. After coming off an excellent 2007 season, he struggled in 2008 including a brief stint in the majors. He battled injuries in 2009 and 2010 before having a bounce back year last season at age 26. I like the signing for bench depth.
Chong is the first South Korean player to get signed directly to the major leagues. Hes 33 years old and pitched for Korea in the World Baseball Classic with some success. He was a late inning reliever with very good stats over there in his career. Last season he had a 1.48 ERA over 52.2 innings with 39 strikeouts and 28 walks. Thats not a great K/BB ratio but hes a groundball pitcher and the year before he had 47 strikeouts and only 8 walks over 45 innings with a 1.40 ERA. Hes a submarine style pitcher that will probably profile as a right handed specialist in the majors. Apparently the deal is for two years for a total of $3 million. I’m not convinced he’ll be a great pitcher in the major leagues but I like the fact that Dan Duquette is taking chances and looking at different avenues for talent. He said he was going to put more emphasis on international talent and so far hes lived up to his word.