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White Sox agree to free-agent deal with Erick Fedde, adding Korean baseball MVP to starting rotation

Vinnie Duber Avatar
December 5, 2023
Erick Fedde

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Korean baseball’s MVP is heading to the South Side.

The White Sox have a two-year, $15 million contract with starting pitcher Erick Fedde, perhaps the biggest move across baseball during a to-this-point sleepy Winter Meetings.

Fedde has plenty of major league experience, all of it with the Nationals, though not much in the way of major league success. After average big league seasons in 2019 and 2020, he posted ERAs north of 5.40 in 2021 and 2022. But he was sensational pitching in the KBO in 2023, winning 20 games and finishing with a pencil-thin 2.00 ERA, winning that league’s equivalent of the MVP and Cy Young awards.

With Fedde, first-year general manager Chris Getz continues to add to a starting-pitching mix that is still taking shape. Getz acquired Michael Soroka and Jared Shuster in the trade that sent Aaron Bummer to the Braves last month, and the team continues to tout the pitchers who were acquired in trade-deadline deals — Nick Nastrini, Jake Eder and Ky Bush — as potential future contributors.

As trade rumors zip around the Winter Meetings involving staff ace Dylan Cease, it figures that the White Sox’ rotation is far from set for Opening Day. But Fedde, with this major league deal, will obviously be a part of it.

“We’re looking to add multiple arms to our rotation, and certainly you never feel you have enough depth when it comes to starting pitching,” Getz said during a media session Tuesday afternoon, prior to news of the team adding Fedde. “There are different ways to go about it, but we’re certainly looking to add. That is a high priority for us.”

Getz has delivered on his goal of adding to what was a mostly barren starting staff heading into 2024. It’s unknown if any of the aforementioned prospects will be tabbed to contribute as soon as late March — if one is, Nastrini seems to have the best odds — but outside of Cease and Michael Kopech, there were no sure things, even with late-season auditioners Jesse Scholtens and Touki Toussaint still under team control.

But Getz said he’s hopeful that one or both of Soroka and Shuster will be part of the five picked by Ethan Katz, new assistant pitching coach Matt Wise and new senior adviser to pitching Brian Bannister at the end of the spring. And now Fedde has a place in that picture, as well.

Bannister was undoubtedly involved in bringing in Fedde, with Getz talking earlier Tuesday about the impact the new addition to the front office is already making.

“When it comes to Bannister, with the successes he’s had, whether it be with the Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, he’s a proven winner when it comes to player acquisition and development,” Getz said. “When it comes to the pitching-acquisition front, he’s done a deep dive and looks for attributes to help a major league staff or a minor league system. And whether it be the acquisitions that we had (in the trade with) the Atlanta Braves, he certainly shared his input there, and we’re doing the same with free agents or any trade that pops up.”

Bannister will surely continue to play an important role in ensuring that Fedde’s success in Korea carries over to the major leagues. While the White Sox did well to secure an intriguing free-agent arm, it remains unknown if Fedde is closer to the pitcher he was in his most recent major league seasons in Washington or the dominant force he was overseas.

It’s also curious exactly how Fedde fits into Getz’s plans to reshape the organization. The general manager Tuesday again expressed his distaste for labeling his makeover project a rebuild, surely cognizant of what that word means to White Sox fans who watched Rick Hahn’s yearslong overhaul fail to ever get off the ground.

But Getz once more refused to state an intention for this White Sox team to compete for an AL Central crown in the season following its 101-loss campaign.

So how does Fedde fit? Given that it’s a two-year deal, this could reinforce the notion that Getz could be aiming for contention as soon as 2025. If not, the White Sox could at least hope Fedde turns into a desirable asset should he prove himself capable of shutting down big league hitters as well as he did batters in Korea.

The White Sox obviously hope he’s able to prove just that. But until he does, the rotation remains chock full of question marks, perhaps as good a reason as any to expect Getz & Co. to keep adding to the mix.

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