After a career-year with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019, Hyun-Jin Ryu hits free agency as one of the most prized starting pitchers on the market. The 32-year-old is fresh off of a campaign that saw him put up a 14-5 record, a league-best 2.32 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, and 163 strikeouts in 182.2 innings. Ryu also finished in the top one percent of the league with a BB% of 3.3. He also received his first selection to the MLB All-Star Game and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting.
In his seven-year tenure with the Dodgers, Ryu compiled a 54-33 record, 2.98 ERA, and 665 strikeouts in 740.1 innings pitched.
Top Three Potential Landing Spots for Hyun-Jin Ryu
After accepting a one-year $17.9 million qualifying offer last offseason, it has been reported that Ryu is looking for a three- or four-year deal this offseason. His NL Cy Young runner-up season should help with that, as well as not having the strain of draft-pick compensation attached to his name — as he would’ve had if he rejected last year’s qualifying offer. Some teams may be concerned about Ryu’s history of injury-related issues, but his 182.2 innings pitched in 2019 should put those concerns to rest. Although he will turn 33 next March, Ryu should receive a lucrative contract this offseason.
As Ryu’s agent Scott Boras said, “He is, age-wise, 32, but the truth is, innings-wise, he’s probably about 26 or 27, because he doesn’t have many innings on his arm. That makes him very valuable.”
So, let’s take a look at the top three potential landings spots for Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Los Angeles Dodgers
One would think that the Dodgers are the favorite to sign Ryu. After all, the South Korean native has spent his entire MLB career with the Dodgers, and Los Angeles has been the only American city he has called home. However, Ryu has said that he doesn’t think there has been much talk between his agent and the Dodgers thus far. Obviously, that could change rather quickly as Los Angeles gauges the free-agent market. The Dodgers have a need for another starting pitcher, and Ryu is a reliable option — as well as a cheaper alternative than both Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole.
The Dodgers have proven in the past that they aren’t afraid to spend money on aging pitchers. For example, before the 2017 season, Los Angeles signed Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract prior to his age 37 season. Ryu is four years younger than Hill was in 2017, and has proven that his arm is healthy. The Dodgers have $104 million available in luxury tax space next season, and with the contracts of Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Justin Turner expiring in the near future, they should have enough to retain Ryu and target another notable free agent.
The Texas Rangers have emerged as a possible landing spot for the crafty left-hander. One main reason being fellow South Korean Shin-Soo Choo making a push to the Rangers front office to sign Ryu. When he became aware of Choo’s comments, Ryu said, “I am grateful. I think it’d be special to be playing with a fellow Korean on the same team.” The question remains as to whether Ryu would want to leave Los Angeles, but Texas seems like a logical destination given the fact that Ryu would team up with a countryman.
The Rangers have plenty of payroll space and are looking for a big signing to fire up their fan base as they prepare for their first season in Globe Life Field. Adding the NL Cy Young runner-up would certainly do just that. Putting Ryu into a rotation consisting of Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, and newly acquired Kyle Gibson would solidify the Rangers rotation as they look to return to contention.
Los Angeles Angels
The Los Angeles Angels are in desperate need of starting pitchers, and Ryu seems to be a good fit. However, the Angels appear to be more focused on Strasburg and Cole. But if the Angels were to miss out on Strasburg and Cole, Ryu would be a good back-up plan. Or, Los Angeles could sign one of the two aces and add Ryu to further strengthen the rotation.
Another factor is location. If Ryu wants to stay in the Southern California area, signing with the Angels is a possibility. According to Jim Bowden of The Athletic: “He’d prefer to stay with the Dodgers, but if they decide to go in another direction, a move south to the Angels would become probable.”
If the Dodgers and Ryu don’t agree on terms, don’t be surprised if the Angels try and convince him to stay in Los Angeles.
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