White Sox agree to deal with RHP Fedde, the '23 KBO MVP

December 14th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Pitching is a priority for the White Sox, regardless of whether they trade or keep staff ace Dylan Cease.

But that mound question moved one small step closer to a solution as Chicago agreed to terms on a two-year, $15 million deal with free agent pitcher , the White Sox announced on Wednesday. In a corresponding move, right-hander Yohan Ramírez was designated for assignment.

Following an underwhelming six-year stretch in the big leagues, Fedde took his talents to the top league in Korea last year and became the best starting pitcher in the KBO.

The 30-year-old right-hander went 20-6 with a 2.00 ERA across 180 1/3 innings for the NC Dinos in 2023. He tallied 209 strikeouts, walked only 35 batters and received the Choi Dong-won Award, the KBO equivalent of the Cy Young. By leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts, Fedde became the fourth pitcher -- and the first foreign starter -- to earn the pitching Triple Crown in the KBO.

“Korea was amazing. They treated me really well,” Fedde said. “The atmosphere is unmatched with the chants and just the way the crowd is. ... It was a great place for me to go, and I wanted a place where I could throw a ton of innings and work on [the] things I made adjustments on, and Korea really offered that for me.”

The White Sox can hope that Fedde’s results in his return to the Majors mirror the recent success of D-backs starter Merrill Kelly, who spent four seasons in the KBO before coming back to North America in 2019 and has produced a 125 ERA+ over the past two seasons.

Fedde joins Cease, Michael Kopech and Michael Soroka in the present White Sox rotation. Left-hander Jared Shuster, who was part of the five-player return from the Braves for Aaron Bummer, and right-hander Nick Nastrini (Chicago’s No. 6 prospect) also are in the mix.

“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,” said general manager Chris Getz prior to news of the deal on Tuesday. “You’re weighing pitchers that have options to help with that depth, whether it be at [Triple-A] Charlotte or perhaps even [Double-A] Birmingham.

“There are different ways to go about it, but we’re certainly looking to add. That is a high priority for us.”

Selected by the Nationals with the 18th overall pick in the 2014 Draft, Fedde was a Top 100 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, in ‘16 and ‘17. But he never posted an ERA better than 4.29 in six seasons while injuries largely kept him from exceeding 140 innings in any year. In ‘22, Fedde recorded a 5.81 ERA over 27 starts for Washington. He struck out 94 batters, walked 58 and served up 21 home runs in 127 innings.

Fedde mostly relied on his sinker, curveball and changeup with the Nationals, but once he arrived in Korea, he added a sweeper to his repertoire and saw immediate results. The right-hander’s strong 29.5 percent strikeout rate in the KBO far surpassed his 17.5 percent rate in the Majors. His 4.9 percent walk rate was nearly half his MLB rate of 9.5 percent, and his ground-ball rate was an exceptional 70.0 percent.

“The biggest difference is, [before the changes], I really didn’t have the put-out breaking ball in that sense,” Fedde said. “My cutter was my go-to but not really a swing-and-miss pitch. But adding the sweeper added some velocity to my breaking ball and [I] was really getting swings and misses that I was missing in the big leagues. The changeup was just another way to keep both righties and lefties off my fastball, which I really needed.”

Getz chose not to comment on the Fedde pursuit when asked during a general managers’ media session Tuesday afternoon. He also chose not to rehash the rebuild/retool debate in regard to the team for 2024, saying it’s premature to find the right word. 

“Based on the upper-level talent we have on this ballclub, I don’t think it’s going to be a dramatic lift to get us where we need to be,” Getz said. “We expect to be better than this past year. I’ve said it before, we’re fortunate to be in the American League Central. 

“Everybody has their challenges with their club and they’re looking to upgrade their team, and we’re doing the same thing. It’s important for our players, everyone part of the organization, to find ways to improve. Start with Game 1, try to win that one, and just adding to the win column.”

Realistically, jumping from 61 wins in 2023 to even .500 in ‘24 is a significant leap. Then again, Getz’s work for the White Sox has really just begun.

“That’s why we’re here and we have our group,” Getz said. “We wake up every day trying to improve the club.”

“We’ve had a lot of interest in a lot of guys, which is encouraging because there’s a lot of talent here,” White Sox assistant general manager Josh Barfield said. “The record might not have reflected that last year, but there is a lot of talent here. We’re going to have multiple options, depending on which way we go, to help improve the direction of next year’s team and beyond.”