For the second time on Thursday, the Detroit Tigers have been reported to have interested in a free agent. It’s doubly interesting that both are players trying to come to the States from Japan and South Korea respectively. How exciting!
Josh Lindblom, a 32-year-old right handed pitcher from Indiana, was first drafted by the Houston Astros in third round of the 2005 draft before going to Purdue. He was again drafted high in 2008, this time by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round.
He debuted in 2011 with LAD to relatively solid success, but has struggled to maintain that level of productivity throughout his MLB career. His last stint in the big leagues came in 2017 with the Pittsburgh Pirates where he pitched 10 1⁄3 innings across four appearances, allowing nine earned runs (7.84 ERA, 2.03 WHIP).
Since then, Lindblom has exclusively pitched in Korea and done rather well, even earning himself the 2019 KBO MVP award.
Despite serving as a relief pitcher in all but six of his 114 MLB appearances, Lindblom has only started for KBO teams. Most recently, he started 30 games for the Doosan Bears in Seoul, compiling a 2.50 ERA over 194 2⁄3 innings, striking out 189 batters and walking only 29. His WHIP checked in just under 1.000, finishing at 0.997. He allowed only 0.6 HR/9 and, while pitcher records are immediately a flawed stat, he finished with 20 wins and only three losses.
Returning to the MLB after a foreign stint is not new to Lindblom either. He spent the 2015 and 2016 with KBO’s Lotte Giants before his short stint in Pittsburgh during the 2017 season. Teams have taken a keen interest in Lindblom on the basis of his improved spin data and the consistent weak contact he allows.
Obviously this would mark a departure for the Tigers were they to land Lindblom. They usually aren’t involved with players coming from Asian leagues—though Jim Adduci is a recent exception—but they’ve been actively scouting Lindblom and it would be quite a surprise to most of the fanbase to see the Tigers land an intriguing free agent this offseason.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts a two-year contract worth $16 million for Lindblom. That’s more than the Tigers have spent on a player in recent years, but certainly isn’t out of the question. As always, the problem is that there are a lot more palatable landing spots for a free agent than with the cellar dwelling Tigers. But if they like him, an overpay is no problem as long as the term is reasonably short.
The Tigers also remain in play for Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports. The left-handed corner outfielderhas averaged over 30 home runs per season across the last four years. The Tigers aren’t favored to land him, but it’s nice to see at least some interest in a couple of out-of-the-box free agent moves as the hot stove season heats up.