The NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization have signed former Nationals right-handers Eric Fedde to a one-year contract, per Jeeho Yoo of South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency (Twitter link). The Boras Corporation client will earn $1MM on the deal, in the form of an $800K salary and $200K signing bonus. That $1MM guarantee is the maximum amount that KBO clubs are able to commit to foreign players in their first year in the league.
Fedde, 30 in February, was the No. 18 overall pick by the Nationals back in 2014 and was long considered one of the sport’s top pitching prospects before making his Major League debut. A standout at UNLV, Fedde might have been selected even higher in the draft had he not required Tommy John surgery during his junior season. The Nats took him in the first round despite the health concerns, and Fedde breezed through the minors once healthy, regularly posting ERAs in the low- to mid-3.00s before making his MLB debut in 2017.
Unfortunately, Fedde’s mostly healthy run through the minor leagues hasn’t carried over into the big leagues. He’s required 60-day IL stints for both flexor and shoulder troubles during a six-year big league career, in addition to shorter-term IL stints for shoulder inflammation and oblique injuries. He’s also struggled to miss bats in the big leagues, issued walks at an above-average clip and struggled to keep the ball in the yard.
In 454 1/3 innings at the MLB level, Fedde has a career 5.41 ERA with a 17.5% strikeout rate, 9.5% walk rate, 1.55 HR/9 and a 48.9% ground-ball rate. His sinker averaged 93.7 mph in 2017-18 and sat at 93.9 mph as recently as 2021, but this past season’s 92.5 mph average was a career-low mark.
Recent struggles notwithstanding, Fedde was once a high-profile pitching prospect who skated through the minor leagues and reached the majors as a 24-year-old. He’s still to turn 30, so a strong run in the KBO could pave the way for Fedde to return to the Majors — perhaps even on a multi-year contract. Merrill Kelly, Chris Flexen other Josh Lindblom are just a few recent examples of pitchers reinventing themselves in the KBO and subsequently cashing in on a multi-year deal upon returning to pro ball in North America. Cardinal’s right Miles Mikolas is the prominent overseas success story, although he found his success in a three-year stint in Japan rather than South Korea. Fedde will look to chart a similar path, and given his relative youth and former prospect status, he’ll be a particularly interesting case to follow with the Dinos in the upcoming season.