Baltimore Orioles: Wei-Yin Chen returns to NPB

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 03: Wei-Yin Chen #16 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during game one of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on October 3, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles won 9-2. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 03: Wei-Yin Chen #16 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during game one of a baseball game against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on October 3, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles won 9-2. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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More than a year after his last professional pitch, former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen is making a comeback.

When last we saw Wei-Yin Chen on the mound, he was limping through another disappointing year with the Marlins. The former Baltimore Orioles starter had been banished to the bullpen to serve as a long reliever. He was released after the season, and after a brief stint in the Mariners system, was unable to find any interest.

However, Chen has managed to land a new job. He has signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines for the rest of the year, to be formally introduced on October 5th.

For Chen, this is essentially an audition for 2021. While the 35 year old may not return stateside, a strong showing over the rest of the season could lead to a longer term deal in Nippon Professional Baseball.

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Chen’s time in the majors was truly a tale of two teams. He was a solid middle of the rotation arm for the Orioles, posting a 46-32 record with a 3.72 ERA and a 1.252 WHiP over his 706.2 innings, striking out 547 batters with just 172 walks. That solid showing in a difficult AL East, and in a tough home park, led to a five year $80 million contract with the Marlins.

That contract was a disaster. Injuries and ineffectiveness turned Chen’s contract into an albatross, his release prior to the COVID-19 shutdown costing the Marlins $22 million this year. Overall, he posted a 5.10 ERA and a 1.327 WHiP. While his numbers disappointed, Chen actually came close to his career strikeout and walk rates, with 299 strikeouts and 98 walks in 358 innings.

It is fair to wonder how much Chen has left. His signing with the Marines will be interesting just from that standpoint, to see if he is capable of putting batters away in Japan. If his struggles continue over the remainder of the season, this could be one of the final times we see Chen on a professional mound.

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Former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen is heading back to Japan. While his time in the majors is likely over, he could have a second act in Nippon Professional Baseball.