Pirates sign 19-year-old righty from Taiwan

Chen adds to pool of 48 international signings by Bucs this year

October 7th, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- On Sept. 20, the Pirates completed a pair of trades to acquire more than $1 million in additional international spending capacity. They officially put it to use on Wednesday.

Adding to a large 2019-20 international free-agent signing class, the Pirates announced that they have signed Taiwanese pitcher Po-Yu Chen. The 19-year-old right-hander received a $1.25 million signing bonus, according to a source, making him one of Pittsburgh’s highest-paid international amateur signees ever.

Chen, listed at 6-foot-2 and 187 pounds, was a member of the 2019 U-18 world champion Chinese Taipei national team. The native of Taoyuan City, Taiwan, started two games against Panama and Korea during the tournament and earned the save in the gold medal game by pitching two innings against the United States. Chen’s father, Ping-Nan Chen, played professionally in the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

“Po-Yu Chen is an exciting young pitching prospect who has been a prominent part of the Taiwanese national program and in International competition,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said in a statement. “He has good size, moves well on the mound, and has a quality pitch mix with the ability to keep getting better.”

The Pirates set their sights on Chen, viewing him as equivalent to a second-round-type talent in the MLB Draft, but needed to obtain more international bonus pool space to sign him. So on Sept. 20, the last day to make such trades, they sent left-hander Domingo Robles to the Cardinals and right-hander Conner Loeprich to the Orioles, acquiring bonus pool slots in each deal.

Cherington said the Pirates have been scouting Chen for three years, writing up more than 25 reports on him.

“In particular, our scout in Taiwan, Fu Chun Chiang, did a great job getting to know Po-Yu and his family and putting us in a position to sign him,” Cherington said. “I enjoyed meeting Po-Yu this week in Pittsburgh, and we look forward to working with him in the years to come.

The international signing period ends on Oct. 15. So far, the Pirates have signed 48 players during the 2019-20 period. The group includes 22 right-handed pitchers, seven left-handed pitchers, 10 infielders, seven outfielders and two catchers.

Since taking over as general manager, Cherington has made several deals to increase the Pirates’ ability to spend on international players. The bonus pool space they acquired in the Starling Marte deal led them to sign Australian outfielder Solomon Maguire. Moving Jarrod Dyson to the White Sox brought back additional pool space, and the minor deals last month accomplished the same goal.

Asked earlier this year about the organization’s approach to signing players on the international market, Pirates international scouting director Junior Vizcaino laughed before he said, “The philosophy is really easy: get good players.”

The Pirates feel like they have done that over the past year, although Vizcaino chuckled as he admitted he was “a little biased” in that assessment.

“We’re very, very excited,” Vizcaino said before the season began. “I think we got the top righty from the Dominican in Cristopher Cruz. I think we got the top lefty from the Dominican with [Yojeiry] Osoria. And I think we got the top righty from Venezuelan with [Gilberto] Alcala. We went pitching-heavy, but we also snuck in some bats, too. On paper, yeah, I think it looks great. We’ve got good-makeup kids that get along well together and are willing to work.”