The Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions signed SP-R Pan Wei-Lun to a 2 year, $404,000 contract
The Transaction Analysis articles are typically reserved for new signings. Extensions don’t interest me much because it’s more of a dollars and cents situation rather than a “here’s this player who will help our team get better” sort of thing. I’ve done my fair share of Transaction Analysis articles and have never once written about a contract extension. The Lions and Father Time himself, Pan Wei-Lun have changed all of that.
Wei-Lun’s contract extension is worth talking about because he is a notable player but it also reveals something about the Chinese Professional Baseball League. These two elements go hand-in-hand and it’s fairly clear that in a different league and under different circumstances the Lions would not be signing a player like Wei-Lun to an extension. The CPBL brings about a different way of operating than you’d ever see in affiliated ball or even in higher-level unaffiliated leagues throughout the world.
Let’s start with Wei-Lun himself and what he’s done to earn himself a contract through his nineteenth season in professional baseball. For a rather large chunk of his career, Wei-Lun was among the best pitchers in the league. He was a workhorse for the Lions and their undisputed ace. That stretch of time put Wei-Lun into a position where he was allowed more leeway once he started slipping. Age caught up to the former ace and he became Father Time. That role has seen Wei-Lun morph into a serviceable arm instead of an ace. He’s a healthy arm and nowhere near his former greatness. But, he makes his starts, keeps the Lions in the game, and represents a consistency that is hard to find throughout the CPBL pitching ranks.
When we talk about starting pitching in the CPBL it’s usually to focus on the foreign arms on a team. It’s not that there aren’t quality Taiwanese starting pitchers in the CPBL. There definitely are, there just aren’t as many of them and they often fail to reach the same heights as their foreign counterparts. Wei-Lun has gone from a pitcher who could match the foreigners to a pitcher whose role is to buoy the foreigners. At this stage in his career, Wei-Lun represents elusive consistency. He’s going to show flashes of his former self but still finish the year either average or slightly below average. Pitchers who can do that are hard to come by in Taiwan’s professional baseball league.
The Lions signed Wei-Lun to an extension not because they are hoping for him to find it again. Rather they signed him because they want exactly the type of pitcher he is in the present. Wei-Lun will continue to provide consistently average starts for a team that lacks the starting pitching depth to hope for anything better this season, and perhaps for a few seasons to come.
Lead photo courtesy of Mark Buckton – The Taiwan Times