The Phillies scouted all the potential Japanese free agent pitchers, but only Hiroshima right-hander Hiroki Kuroda was offered a contract, says Phillies assistant GM Mike Arbuckle.
“Our international scouting supervisor probably saw Kuroda pitch six times, and we felt like Kuroda was probably the best available,” Arbuckle said during Thursday’s Winter Tour stop in Reading. “We did not feel the rest of the crop was anything that was going to upgrade us. If they made a staff, they were the 11th or 12th pitchers on a staff. We didn’t feel like they were upgrades, essentially.” Arbuckle felt many of the pitchers were too old.
Arbuckle says the Phillies continue making inroads into the Asian markets, as well as some other developing destinations.
“Marti Wolever, our scouting director, just arrived back today from a three week trip: Australia, China, and he even made a stop in Europe, as we try to establish contacts for the future," he said. "We anticipate baseball is going to get better there. It’s truly a year-round, world-wide process today.”
Turning his attention to the Caribbean, Arbuckle was asked whether they had anyone in mind, a la Antonio Alfonseca, who impressed scouts in the Dominican last winter and signed a one-year deal.
“We haven’t seen anybody this year that jumped out at us,” Arbuckle said, speaking about players in both the Dominican and Venezuelan leagues. “We cover the winter leagues in detail. We’ll have one or two guys who surface scout, then guys who will sit and cover each club. So, we really have double coverage on the Dominican and the Venezuelan winter leagues.”
Beerleaguer: I'm not a scout, but recent history shows that besides veterans like Alfonseca, the Dominican Winter League has very little to offer in terms of project pitchers. It's not the viable source of talent it's cracked up to be. I've seen the rosters, the stats and understand there's nothing down there this winter. The same for Venezuela.
On the other hand, I'm disappointed the Phils came away empty handed in their pursuit of a Japanese pitcher. The pool was rather deep, and teams like Kansas City and Cleveland came away with pitchers who cost them little and factor into their plans. But again, I'm not a scout, and also acknowledge that many of the pitchers were long of tooth.