Report: Ex-Dodgers SP Hyun-Jin Ryu, Blue Jays Agree to 4-Year, $80M Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 06: Hyun-Jin Ryu #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Washington Nationals in game three of the National League Division Series at Nationals Park on October 6, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Will Newton/Getty Images

Hyun-Jin Ryu cashed in on his career year, agreeing to a four-year, $80 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. There are no opt outs in the contract, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Last offseason, Ryu accepted the Los Angeles Dodgers' one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer rather than testing his earning potential on the open market. He had been limited to 15 starts in 2018, so it made sense to bet on himself and attempt to rebuild his value.

The strategy worked out brilliantly, as Ryu went 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA and 3.10 FIP in 29 appearances. His 4.8 WAR was 12th among starting pitchers, and he ranked first in walk rate, allowing 1.18 per nine innings. The veteran left-hander also narrowly edged out Jacob deGrom (2.43) for the MLB ERA title.

Ryu's talent wasn't in doubt. He went 28-15 and had 7.8 combined WAR in his first two years with the Dodgers.

However, he missed all of 2015 after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. He then logged 213.2 combined innings between 2016 and 2018. Throw in the Tommy John surgery he had in 2004 and long-term health is a big question.

His agent, Scott Boras, attempted to spin his injury history as a positive.

"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," Boras said in October to the South Korean Yonhap News Agency. "That makes him very valuable."

Ryu did have one advantage over some of his fellow free agents in that the Dodgers won't receive any draft pick compensation when he officially signs with the Blue Jays. Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel went unsigned this past season until after the draft concluded, which meant the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs, respectively, didn't have to give up any draft picks.

In general, the concerns about Ryu's durability might be overstated.

Fifteen pitchers registered at least 200 innings in 2019. That number was 34 in 2014 and 36 in 2009. Teams simply aren't asking their starting pitchers to go deep into games as regularly as they once did.

Toronto would likely be thrilled to see Ryu hit 200 innings in 2020, but it will probably be equally happy if he pitches like a No. 1 or 2 starter for 140 to 150 innings too.

Gerrit Cole was the crown jewel of this year's free-agent class, and his contract demands would inevitably price a lot of franchises out of the sweepstakes.

Signing Ryu allows the Blue Jays to strengthen their starting rotation without having to pay the king's ransom it required to get Cole, who agreed to a record-setting nine-year, $324 million deal with the New York Yankees.

However, Toronto is an odd fit given how far off playoff contention the team was in 2019.

The Blue Jays finished 36 games back of the American League East champion Yankees and 29 games off the final wild-card spot. They're still at least another year or two from seriously challenging for a postseason bid.

The front office most likely sees Ryu as a useful trade chip down the line. Signing him to this contract could prove a shrewd move if Toronto can flip him for a top prospect who matches up better with its general timeline.