“Ryu Hyun-jin, a card to bolster the starting lineup”
Neither his age nor his injury history are likely to be a hindrance. He has a long track record of performance. The chances of the ‘Korean Monster’ Ryu Hyun-jin staying in the US Major League Baseball (MLB) are increasing.
MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, analyzed the players remaining in the free agency market as of today (Feb. 2). At the top of the list are Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Imanaga Shota, and Marcus Stroman. If you’re looking to upgrade your starting lineup, these are the players to target.
Ryu was a mid-level option. He was mentioned alongside Michael Lorenzen, Sean Manaea, Mike Clevinger, Alex Wood, and James Paxton. “With Seth Lugo, Michael Waka, Kenta Maeda, Wade Miley, Lance Lynn, Luis Severino, Zach Flaherty, Kyle Gibson, and Frankie Montas already in place (with their respective organizations), there are still some good options left,” the outlet wrote, “and while they may not be the most attractive options, the remaining pitchers could add stability to their respective starting rotations.”
Local media outlets in the U.S. have been tracking Ryu for several teams. It’s a testament to the fact that Ryu is still considered competitive in the big leagues.
Rising Apple, which covers the New York Mets, listed Ryu as one of three players the Mets should acquire as soon as possible. “Ryu doesn’t inspire confidence in his durability, but he does have some upside. “In his 10-year big league career, he’s had just two seasons with more than 30 starts, but he’s posted a career ERA of 3.27. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy consistently, but he’s pitched very well, finishing in the top three in Cy Young voting twice in the last five years.”
“Of course, he’s only started 17 games over the last two seasons combined. There are concerns about putting the injury-prone Severino and Ryu in the rotation together, but the Mets don’t have many other options right now. Ideally, we’d like to see Ryu get a full year of work and help the Mets win, rather than overpay for a pitcher who may not be much better than Ryu when healthy.”
Ryu made a name for himself as a starting ace for the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO for seven seasons from 2006 to 2012. After the 2012 season, he was offered to the major leagues through the posting system (non-tender offer). He signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers. After making his big league debut in 2013 and cruising, he underwent labrum repair surgery on his left shoulder in 2015. He didn’t play a single game. In 2016, he appeared in one game and had necrotic tissue removed from his left elbow that year.
After returning in 2017, he hit his stride in 2018, going 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA. In 2019, he bounced back with a 14-5 record and a 2.32 ERA. In six seasons with the Dodgers, he pitched in 126 games, going 54-33 with one save and a 2.98 ERA. He became a free agent after the 2019 season. He signed a four-year, $80 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. At the time, it was the largest free agent contract for a pitcher in Toronto franchise history.
I was on the operating table in June 2022. He underwent elbow ligament reconstruction (Tommy John surgery). After more than a year of rehabilitation, he made his comeback on Aug. 2 against the Baltimore Orioles. Last season, Ryu went 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 11 games and 52 innings pitched. In four seasons with Toronto, he has a combined record of 24-15 with a 3.97 ERA in 60 games. He is a free agent again after this season.
Born in 1987, Ryu’s age, late 30s, and history of injuries and surgeries made him an unlikely candidate for free agency, but he has proven himself to be a viable option for teams in need of starting pitching reinforcements since the market opened. His veteran presence on the big league mound, his stability, and his ability to manage a game have been a plus.
Ryu has previously stated that he would like to finish his baseball career with his hometown team, Hanwha. On March 28, Hanwha President Son Hyuk had dinner with Ryu. “It’s not a big deal,” Hanwha said at the time, explaining that the team has known Ryu for a long time and has a close relationship with him, so they meet every year in Korea during the offseason. Given the current state of the Major League Baseball free agency market, a return to Hanwha is likely to be a bit longer in coming.