As far as free agent pitchers go, there might not be a better bargain on the market than Hyun-Jin Ryu. There’s no question that the lefty’s injury history will be a huge factor in the offers he garners this winter, but based on risk vs. reward, he might be one of the better fits for front-office boss Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers.
There was rarely a week that went by during the regular season last year when at least one of us here at TBPC was pushing for a Ryu contract extension. At the time, there was some belief that he would command upwards of a five-year deal should he hit the market; however, some reports have surfaced recently that he’d be willing to settle for a three or four year pact, especially if it’s offered by a club on the West Coast.
On the surface, the native of Korea doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to ink a new deal, as he remains committed to working on his winter training routine.
“I am going to focus on training for the new season,” Ryu recently said in an interview with the Yonhap News Agency. “Honestly, I am not really thinking about free agency. But if there’s anything I need to do regarding free agency, I’ll probably fly back to the U.S. at some point.”
Arguably, Ryu is the third-best free agent starting pitcher on the market behind Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. Considering that some pundits feel that both Cole and Strasburg may approach deals in the $200 million range, the fact that Ryu could be snagged for three years and less than $70 million sets him apart from the aforementioned duo.
A few weeks back, our own Jeff D. predicted that Ryu would sign with the Dodgers before the beginning of the Winter Meetings on December 8 in San Diego. If the Dodgers are indeed set on adding another starter to their 2020 rotation plans, that move could end up being a wise one.
Regardless, Ryu is represented by agent Scott Boras, who is notorious for negotiating top-dollar for his clients. Seemingly, Boras is already trying to talk-up Ryu in his conversations with the media.
“He had a Cy Young season. He was the best pitcher in the league,” Boras said recently. “We’re really excited about his future and we’re just beginning to see the real Ryu.”
Consequently, Jim Bowden of The Athletic stated that Ryu may even consider a deal with the Angels should he fail to land a contract with the Dodgers. By many accounts, the Angels are thought to be aggressively pursuing starting pitching this winter.
With reports surfacing last week that righty Kenta Maeda could be seeking a trade, coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the durability of youngsters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, the addition of a top-notch starting pitcher may be a smart move for the Dodgers heading into 2020.
If he’s able to stay healthy over the next few seasons, a multi-year contract awarded to Ryu could pay itself off exponentially.
During the 2019 regular season, Ryu led MLB in ERA with 2.32 while throwing 182 2/3 innings, his most since 192 innings as a rookie in 2013. He also tied his career high with 14 wins. Not only did he appear in his first-ever All-Star game, but he was also the starting pitcher for the National League.
Ryu finished second in the 2019 Cy Young Award voting behind Jacob deGrom of the Mets.