Late last night, news broke that Hyun-Jin Ryu signed with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ryu signed with the Dodgers in 2013 at age 26 after already having played in the Korean Baseball Organization for seven years. He went 28-15 over his first two seasons in Los Angeles, before missing all the 2015 season and almost all of the 2016 season, pitching in just one game after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
He also missed big chunks of the 2017 and 2018 seasons with injuries, most notably one that was due to a muscle completely tearing off his thigh bone. He also incurred a similar injury in 2019, but recovered in less time than his previous injury.
In what was his last season in Dodger uniform, Ryu really shined. He started the season 11-2 through July, and started multiple important games, including Opening Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the 2019 All-Star game.
The second half of the season was not as kind to The Korean Monster and cost him the Cy Young award. In August, he lost three games, and his ERA for the month was 7.48. He went 2-0 in September over four games and his ERA was a much better 2.13. He also provided Dodger fans with one of the top highlights of the season, homering in the last game of the regular season, causing fans and announcers alike to temporarily lose their minds.
Ryu still finished the year with the lowest ERA in baseball, but lost the Cy Young to Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets.
Many fans wanted Ryu to re-sign with the Dodgers. When healthy, he was a very dominant pitcher who while not flashy, missed bats and didn’t allow many home runs, or runs at all. The Dodgers are the only team Ryu had played for in the United States, and six seasons is a long time, these days anyway, with one team. And Ryu’s bromances with Juan Uribe, Yasiel Puig and others will always bring a smile to fans’ faces.
But, presumably what the Dodgers front office was considering were the history of injuries as well as his age. Ryu will be 33 to start the 2020 season. There wasn’t much to lead fans to believe that the Dodgers were in on reuniting with Ryu, as he himself told a Korean newspaper that the Dodgers had not even had contact with the left-hander. The Dodgers also have a history of not negotiating with Scott Boras, Ryu’s agent.
Ultimately, Ryu signed with the Blue Jays for four years and $80 million. That length of contract is also not one the Dodgers’ front office would tend to give out, especially to an aging, oft-injured pitcher. While we will miss cheering for him, I think that the Dodgers ultimately saw something that did not make them want to pursue re-signing Ryu. For now, I will trust them on that.
The loss of Ryu leaves a hole in the Dodgers rotation, between Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. But since the Dodgers apparently were never in on Ryu to begin with, one would assume they have a plan to fill that slot. In addition to Buehler and Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Dustin May, Julio Urias, and Ross Stripling will most likely see time in a starting roll. That rotation will be good enough to win the division with, but you couldn’t rely on it to do more than that, unless May and another starter like Urías both have standout seasons.
Rumors still abound about the Dodgers being in contact with the Cleveland Indians and their interest in Francisco Lindor and Mike Clevinger. I think there will be another pitcher in the Los Angeles rotation to start the season, whether through a trade with the Indians or another team. We just will have to keep waiting for news in that area.