Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Orioles and Korea: Troubling Signs for Baltimore's International Scouting Efforts

I wanted to comment on this article in Baseball America last week that breaks down the Orioles' debacle involving the attempted signing of Korean high school pitcher Seong-Min Kim.

I have been pretty approving of all the changes the Orioles have been making under Dan Duquette and thought that shaking up the organization and focusing on international markets are fine ideas. The organization needed that and my opinion was that any change was better than the status quo.

However, the details regarding the signing of Kim make one wonder about the judgement of the people heading up some of these efforts. For one, the pitcher was not even considered a great prospect to begin with.

More notable than the breach of protocol, however, was the amount the Orioles agreed to pay a player regarded by most teams that scouted him as a marginal prospect. (Dan) Duquette declined to comment on Kim's scouting report now that he's no longer under contract...

Many believed the Orioles were the only team interested in Kim. Several teams turned him in as a non-prospect.

"Where was the competition," asked one international scouting director, "to drive the bonus to $575,000 when they could have signed him for $5,000?"

That's a good question. Why are the Orioles so anxious to sign a fringy prospect that they jump the gun and break protocol? There is one man who can answer that.

After hiring Duquette in November, the Orioles announced the hiring of Ray Poitevint as their new executive director of international baseball in a Jan. 9 press release. Poitevint has extensive experience signing players in Asia, including during Duquette's tenure as Red Sox GM from 1994-2001. The two have worked together since Duquette began his career in baseball with the Brewers in 1981. Poitevint said in an interview that Duquette started out as his assistant, and the two were together in Milwaukee until Duquette left to join the Expos after the 1987 season.

Poitevint said he scouted Kim for two and a half years, and that he and an associate he has known for 30 years—whom he declined to name—evaluated Kim for the Orioles. When asked who else was interested in signing Kim, Poitevint said, "Everybody," adding, "This is the type of guy who draws scouts...."

"We'll see what happens," Poitevint said. "If we have an opportunity to introduce ourselves again to him, we'll try to sign him, just like anyone else. We know there's going to be a lot of competition."

So the first issue is that Mr. Poitevant and his scouts are far, far off the reservation when it comes to the general scouting consensus on this kid. That is troublesome, as is the amount of money they threw Kim's way, but sometimes an individual scout can see things others may miss.

But an even bigger issue is that Mr. Poitevant and his "extensive experience" in Asia managed commit a huge gaffe, nullifying a contract and losing access to Korean baseball, less than 3 months into his job.

Questionable talent assessment and procederal ignorance? This is not the kind of change this team needs.

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