There's no better time to get creative than the blissful period before the offseason officially begins (five days after the World Series ends). Someday -- potentially just a few days from now -- Brian Cashman might screw everything up. But, for the time being, the possibility remains that he makes a few blockbuster acquisitions this offseason, turns over every stone seeking improvements, and winds up with a few "out of left field" contributors to complement his centerpiece stars.
That leads us to our efforts to emulate the most interesting part of the Arizona Diamondbacks' model. Not the roster building that led them to 84 wins in Corbin Carroll's first full season. Not the GM wizardry that led to them fleecing the Toronto Blue Jays. Not even their tanking efforts (intentional or not) that allowed Jordan Lawlar and Druw Jones to join the fray.
We're talking about the pathway that led them to Merrill Kelly, who fired seven unparalleled innings in the Game 2 win that might've flipped the World Series (or at least opened the door). In recent seasons -- especially after Kelly's return to the states -- struggling pitchers have leapt to the KBO looking for a second chance in Asia. Kelly, signed prior to the 2019 season, has now spent five years as an innings-soaking mid-rotation arm who made Team USA's World Baseball Classic staff, and might just be even better than that when his location is on point. Other arms, like Chris Flexen and Josh Lindblom, have also made similar leaps back to MLB.
And, not to spoil the conclusion here, but former Nationals right-hander Erick Fedde certainly seems to be next in line after his sterling 2023 season (after signing a one-year deal).
Fedde whopped the competition all year long, posting 6.7 WAR, tied for ninth (with Matt Olson) among all players across the globe in 2023. After posting a 5.81 ERA, 1.63 WHIP and 5.15 FIP for last season's Nationals, he rebounded to become a singular force in Korea, posting a 2.00 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 20-6 record.
Fedde has continued chugging along in the KBO playoffs, earning Man of the Match honors for his dominant start for the NC Dinos this week in the opener of their series.
Yankees Offseason Pitching Target: Erick Fedde, KBO?
If the MLB-to-KBO-back-to-MLB pipeline had no precedent, then Fedde's dominance against "lesser" competition wouldn't be getting a second look.
But Kelly was a journeyman before trying his luck overseas, just a piece of Rays roster fodder who wasn't getting a chance to crack Tampa Bay's Opening Day roster. After the Diamondbacks expanded their scouting operation and dared to take a chance, he's become a durable workhorse, as well as their most beguiling arm over the course of their surprise playoff run.
Fedde won't cost much this offseason and probably won't require a commitment beyond two or three years, but he played his expedition perfectly, dominating as much as possible on a one-year flyer overseas. He's undoubtedly plotting his return this winter, and the Yankees cannot afford to not dive deeper.