The Orioles usually upset their own fans by not being aggressive enough, or not spending money.
Now they've found their way into something of an international incident with a very aggressive signing.
According to Korea's Yonhap News Agency, the Korean Baseball Association announced Thursday that it will ban Orioles scouts from attending games, after the team signed 17-year-old pitcher Kim Seong-min for a reported $550,000. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball is looking into the signing, after a request from the Korean Baseball Organization, which runs professional baseball in that country.
The KBA objected to the signing, because Kim was not yet in his final year of high school. The association also said that any other teams signing players that young would also be banned from scouting in the country.
The KBO was upset enough that secretary general Yang Hae-Young referred to "hegemonic rookie signings" in an interview with Yonhap.
The Kim signing has stirred emotions in Korea, where some people feel that even if the Orioles didn't break any rules -- it appears that they didn't -- they may have broken with accepted procedure and/or offended some sensibilities.
Unlike in Japan, where most players have come to American baseball through the Japanese professional system, quite a few Koreans have signed with major-league teams direct from the amateur ranks. Neither Hee-Seop Choi and Byung-Hyun Kim, for example, played professional baseball in Korea before coming to MLB, although both played in Korea after their major-league careers ended.
Choi and Byung-Hyun Kim, though, were both older than the pitcher the Orioles signed. According to reports from Korea, Kim Seong-Min is just the second player signed by an MLB at such a young age (the first was a player the Braves signed in 1997).
The influx of players from Asia has always been complicated, because of concerns in the home countries about the effect on their local leagues. The issue is whether taking the top players to major-league organizations would harm the leagues and development systems left behind, and whether fans in those countries would simply watch major-league games on television rather than support the local game.
It's no surprise that the Orioles are in the middle of it, because new Orioles general manager Dan Duquette hired longtime scout Ray Poitevint, who is known for his aggressive style in signing Asian players.
The Orioles expect Kim Seong-Min to report to their minor-league camp this spring in Florida.