If you click through right-hander Josh Lindblom’s archives here at MLBTR, the headlines aren’t exactly eye-catching. A series of DFAs, outrights, releases and minor league re-signings with the Pirates make up most of the recent chatter on the 32-year-old, whom many readers may never even have heard of. Lindblom pitched 147 innings in parts of five seasons with the Dodgers, Phillies, Rangers, A’s and Pirates from 2011-17. Interspersed throughout were multiple stints with the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization (2015-16 and a midseason return in 2017). Lindblom opened 2017 on a minor league deal with Pittsburgh but eventually returned to the KBO in relative anonymity among MLB fans.
There’s nothing “anonymous” about Lindblom’s past two seasons as far as KBO fans are concerned, though. While his 2017 campaign there was solid but unspectacular, Lindblom has erupted as one of the best pitchers in South Korea since the beginning of 2018. In two seasons with the Doosan Bears, Lindblom has worked to a combined 2.68 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.7 BB/9 and 0.72 HR/9 in 363 1/3 innings. His 2019 strikeout, walk and home-run rates all improved over their already-strong 2018 marks as Lindblom racked up 194 2/3 innings with a 2.50 ERA. The righty flirted with a sub-2.00 ERA for much of the season and this week was announced as the winner of his second straight Choi Dong-Won Award — the top pitching award in the KBO.
With that run of excellence and a Korean Series championship in his back pocket, Lindblom now has his sights set on a return to Major League Baseball. Unlike last time when he quietly signed a minor league pact with the Pirates, however, he could very well find genuine interest on Major League offers. Lindblom’s current two-year platform tops that of fellow right-hander Merrill Kelly in just about every capacity, and Kelly landed a two-year, $5.5MM contract with the Diamondbacks last winter. It’s important to note that Kelly, who pitched this past season at age 30, was younger — but the gap between their numbers isn’t particularly close.
That’s obviously a pretty basic look at the pair’s stats overseas, but there’s nonetheless a notable discrepancy, even if Kelly did manage to strike batters out at a slightly higher rate.