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c-n-c-mailbag-international-starter | August | 2007 Articles

2007 Archives

C-n-C Mailbag: International Starter?

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Estal F. Writes, Can the Braves go to Japan, South America, or Cuba and get a starting pitcher without him having to go through waivers? The Braves really need a # 3 veteran top quality starter. I agree that the Braves would seriously benefit from a solid number three starter to slot in behind Smoltz and Hudson, but wanting that and getting that are two very different stories. The rules for getting international players make going out and getting an established major-league quality starter very difficult. I assume that you are asking about acquiring a starter for the stretch run this season but the chances of that happening are minuscule at best. Cuban players are not allowed by law to come over to the US and play in the majors. The only way a Major League team can acquire is if that player defects from Cuba. The players can do that in one of two ways. The most common is that they leave their Cuban team if they are playing in a place like Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, or another South American or Carribean country and then apply for a visa in the United States. If they go this way (ie. Brayan Pena and Barbaro Canizares) then they can sign with any team. The much less common way is to escape right to the United States and gain asylum (ie. Yunel Escobar). If the player chooses this route, then they are subject to the June Amateur Draft like American, Canadian, and Puerto Rican players. You never really know when a player could defect, but most are not going to be much in the majors and aren't ready even if they are a top talent. Going through Japan or South America is still very difficult and finding an established starter out of South America or the Caribbean is virtually impossible because they have all already been signed. If a top talent out of Latin America goes unsigned by 18-years old, that is surprising. Major League teams can sign these players at 16 and almost all of the top players will be signed. The rest that end up playing in their country's professional league aren't good enough to make it to the big leagues. Japan would be the easiest place to get an established starter but you can't get them in the middle of the season. There are some loopholes, but generally all Japanese high school and college players are subject to the Japanese Professional League's draft. There are still two ways that you can get a Japanese player though. The first way is free agency. Just like Major Leaguers, Japanese players reach free agency after a certain amount of time. At that point they can sign with a Japanese team or come over to the United States to play. The second is the posting process, which we saw with Daisuke Matsuzaka this past off-season. Before they reach free agency, a Japanese team can post one of their players. Basically, the Major League team with the highest bid gets to negotiate with the player and if they reach a deal, the team acquires the player and the money is transfered. There is really only one international option potentially on the market this season. Koji Uehara is a 32-year old right-hander from Japan and will be a free-agent after this season. He has played for the Yomiuri Giants for his entire pro career and has changed from more of a power pitcher in the beginning of his career to a pitcher who relies heavily on his control and changing speeds now. Uehara started the season as the Giants' closer because of an injury but can start. His price isn't going to be through the roof but we have yet to see how much money the front office is willing to spend with Mike Hampton coming back. Check out Mike Plugh's "Uehara Watch" blog for more info on him and you can see a video of Uehara pitching for the Giants. If you would like a Braves question answered in the C-n-C mailbag, send the question to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
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