Pitching isn’t the top priority of the Cincinnati Reds this offseason, but it’s not an area that they are planning to ignore, either. While going out and signing Gerritt Cole would be great, it’s also unrealistic to expect (unfortunately).
Cincinnati is probably looking for someone to compete with Tyler Mahle for the 5th spot in the rotation, provide depth there, and could pitch out of the bullpen and provide value there if they don’t beat out Mahle for the spot in the rotation. One of those options could be Josh Lindblom. If you don’t recognize that name, or only have a vague recognition, there’s probably a good reason for that. He’s pitched in Korea for the better part of the last five seasons. He pitched briefly with Pittsburgh in 2017 – four games, and then 17 more for their Triple-A team – but also pitched in Korea that season, the two before it, and the two since. And after being named the KBO MVP, he’s now a free agent looking to return to Major League Baseball.
RHP Josh Lindblom has been named KBO MVP after going 20-3 with a 2.50 ERA for the Doosan Bears. Lindblom, 32, is expected to receive multiyear @MLB offers once he becomes an international free agent Saturday under KBO rules. @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 25, 2019
It’s those final last two seasons that have seen a different version of Josh Lindblom. His ERA has taken a big dip into the sub-3.00 range, and in 2019 he went from well above-average in terms of walking hitters to an elite level of almost walking no one. Let’s take a look at his performance in the KBO since he first began pitching there in 2015.
Only in 2016 was he having some issues when it came to performance on the mound. His 2017 season was limited there because he did pitch some in the US for the Pirates organization. That stint came to begin the year, and he headed to Korea after his release in mid-July that season. You can see his full career stats at Baseball Reference.
2019 was clearly his best season. He threw a ton of innings, had a 2.50 ERA, walked all of 29 batters, and struck out 189 in 194.2 innings. To give that some context, the league ERA in 2019 for the KBO was 4.16. The average walk rate in the league was 8.6%, and the average strikeout rate in the league was 17.3%. Lindblom was significantly better across the board in all of those things.
Steve Kelly of MLB Trade Rumors wrote about Lindblom earlier in the month. He noted that the right-hander averaged 91 MPH on his fastball this year, but that it’s a higher spin-rate fastball – so it may play up a little bit from that velocity. Kelly also noted that in the last two seasons he’s changed up his pitch usage, and that it’s paid big dividends.
It’s tough to really know how the numbers truly translate. The baseball used is a little bit different. The competition level is a bit lower. But this is why you pay the scouts, right?
There’s probably not a ton of upside with Josh Lindblom. He’s not likely going to be leading your rotation. And he’s probably not going to be a guy that pitches in the 9th inning out of the bullpen, either. But he could be a good contract if he can perform a little bit. The price of acquisition probably won’t be too high – MLB Trade Rumors projects a 2-year, $8M deal. It seems like a low-risk move at that price, but one that could provide some good value, too.