It’s not easy to move on from a player who still has guaranteed years remaining on their contract. It’s even harder to do so when that player comes from an area of a team that needs improvement. Yet that was just the type of move the Milwaukee Brewers made on Wednesday.
The Brewers decided to cut bait early when they designated right-handed pitcher Josh Lindblom for assignment. In his place, the team recalled Eric Lauer from Triple-A to take his place on the 26-man roster, also tasking him with making the start for the team Wednesday night.
Lindblom was signed to a 3-year, $9.125MM contract prior to the 2020 season, meaning the Brewers owe him a shade over $3MM both this year and next year. Though that’s not an astronomical amount, small-market teams like Milwaukee don’t often cut players who are still owed that much money.
And yet, due to his performance, the Brewers still made the difficult decision to DFA Josh Lindblom.
Milwaukee hoped they were finding lightning in a bottle yet again with Lindblom. They had already had Eric Thames and, to a lesser extent, Jay Jackson to speak of as players who reinvented themselves overseas who became success stories after signing with the Crew.
Like them, Lindblom also looked to resurrect his career overseas, playing in the KBO. He wound up winning multiple awards (their version of the Cy Young as well as the MVP) and had his finest season in 2019 when he went 20-3 with a 2.50 ERA and 0.997 WHIP, striking out 189 while walking just 29.
That success didn’t quite translate back in the states, though, as Lindblom joined Milwaukee’s starting rotation in 2020. In 12 games, 10 of which being starts before being briefly moved to the bullpen, he went 2-4 with a 5.16 ERA and 1.279 WHIP. He did show an ability to strike batters out, though, with a 10.3 K/9.
Hopes were that a year adjusting to MLB pitching might have him ready for a bounceback in 2021. However, a below average performance during Cactus League (4.66 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) combined with the excellent spring performance of Freddy Peralta caused him to lose his starting rotation spot and begin his year in the bullpen.
That saw him give up runs in three of his first five outings, 13 earned runs in 10 2/3 innings overall, before a knee injury sent him to the IL for a few weeks. He gave up at least an earned run in each of his three appearances upon returning before the Brewers decided a change needed to be made.
DFA’s don’t always mean fully cutting ties, though, and according to Sophia Minnaert of Bally Sports Wisconsin, that may very well be the case with Lindblom.
Part of the reason Lindblom was able to reinvent himself was by transitioning from bullpen to starter. And though he may not return some day as a starter for the Brewers, if a return does happen in the future, getting regular work like a starter would down in the minors could help in getting him back on track.
In some seasons, the Brewers might have tried to let Lindblom work through his struggles. But the Brewers have shown in recent weeks that they are already making necessary moves to end the season with a playoff berth and this move was another prime example.