TAIPEI — Taiwanese free agent pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (陳偉殷) reportedly has agreed to a 5-year, US$80 million deal with the Miami Marlins, which includes a sixth-year vesting option.
The deal could be worth up to US$96 million if the sixth-year option vests, and Chen can opt out of the contract after the second year, according to U.S. media reports.
Chen’s deal, worth an average US$16 million per year, is the richest contract ever given to a pitcher by the Marlins. It is also the richest contract ever given to an athlete of Chinese ethnicity by a professional sports team.
In 2005, China’s center Yao Ming (姚明) signed a five-year US$75 million contract with the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In 2009, the New York Yankees of the Major League Baseball (MLB) signed Taiwanese pitcher Chien-Ming Wang (王建民) to a one-year deal worth US$5 million.
The Los Angeles Lakers offered Taiwanese-American NBA player Jeremy Lin (林書豪) US$15 million during the 2014-2015 season.
The Marlins deal with Chen has not been announced and it will come into effect only after Chen has passed a physical exam, according to a report on MLB.com.
Chen is expected to fit nicely behind ace Jose Fernandez, and his addition should slide right-handers Tom Koehler and Jarred Cosart into the third and fourth spots of the rotation, according to the MLB.com report.
Japanese Ichiro Suzuki also plays for the Marlins.
Chen, who turns 31 in July, is now in Taiwan and declined to comment on the reports, saying only that his agency in the U.S. will issue a public statement.
Considered as one of the top remaining free-agent pitchers available, Chen is scheduled to fly to U.S. later this month to start a self-training program.
A native of Taiwan, Chen pitched for Chunichi in the Central League in Japan before going to the U.S. prior to the 2012 season.
He arguably was the best starting pitcher left on the market and is coming off a solid season that saw him post a 3.34 ERA in 191.1 innings for the Baltimore Orioles, according to the U.S. sports website Bleacher Report.
Chen pitched four seasons with the Orioles, going 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA in 117 career starts. He had a breakthrough season in 2014, when he went 16-6 with a 3.54 ERA and helped Baltimore win the AL East.