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Josh Lindblom wants to come back to MLB from Korea. Could he help the Cubs?

SB Nation logo SB Nation 11/26/2019 Al Yellon
a close up of a man in a baseball uniform throwing a ball: Josh Lindblom pitching for the Pirates in 2017 © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports Josh Lindblom pitching for the Pirates in 2017

Josh Lindblom was the Pirates’ second-round pick out of Purdue in 2008. He pitched pretty well for the Bucs in 2012 in 74 relief outings (3.55 ERA, 1.325 WHIP, 0.9 bWAR), then regressed and eventually wound up heading to Korea to pitch for Doosan, where he has posted two very good seasons. His 2019 season, in fact, got him an award:

In addition to the 2.50 ERA, Lindblom posted an 0.997 WHIP which was largely due to an outstanding walk rate. He walked only 29 batters in 194⅔ innings, a 1.3 BB/9 ratio.

Lindblom was recently the subject of a long article in The Athletic which is worth reading, both for how he approached his time in Korea (he immersed himself in Korean culture) and for how he was able to help one of his kids who was born with a heart defect. But what’s more important is the way he’s changed his game since he left MLB:

Lindblom built on his strong 2018 campaign for a historic 2019 season. He accomplished it with a diligent study of his own arsenal. Because there is not as much analytical data available in the KBO as there is in the majors, Lindblom took it upon himself to compile his own metrics. In the offseason, he threw on a Rapsodo, a performance tool that measures each pitch’s spin rate, vertical and horizontal breaks, spin axis, spin efficiency and other figures.

As a result, his fastball spin rate jumped around 300 rpm over the course of the offseason. Lindblom used to mix four-seam and two-seam fastballs, but after making such improvement, he went to his four-seamer exclusively.

“Adding analytics to my game plan has helped,” Lindblom said. “Just getting better — a lot of guys come here, and the stigma is that you come to Asia and you end your career. But that’s no longer the case. You come here to play, and there’s an opportunity to get better.”

That’s exactly the sort of thing the Cubs are doing with their Pitch Lab in Mesa. If the Cubs were to sign Lindblom, he’d probably sign right up for those kinds of analytics.

From the article in The Athletic, check out this tweet which shows the nasty splitter Lindblom has developed:

If the Cubs are looking for an outside-the-box signing to help the starting rotation, there might just be one here. Think of him as a Miles Mikolas type, someone who went to Asia and dominated and then came back to MLB and became a dependable rotation starter. Now, Mikolas is younger than Lindblom and his second year in the Cardinals rotation wasn’t as good as his first, but I wouldn’t expect he’d command as many dollars, either. Eric Thames is someone who’s come back to MLB from KBO and produced; he’s given the Brewers three pretty good seasons at reasonable dollar figures.

So here’s my thought. Offer Lindblom two years and $10 million, with a third-year option at $8 million with a $1 million buyout. He made $1.7 million in KBO in 2019. I’m not suggesting Lindblom would be any sort of savior, but he could be a good fifth starter at a relatively low cost.

What do you think?

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