The signing of free agent left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin, 36, remains a hot topic in the United States. Major League Baseball teams are actively making offers to veteran starting pitchers, and there is a steady stream of reports that Ryu could easily sign a one-year contract.
American sports media outlet ‘The Athletic’ checked the contract status of the top 40 free agents at the end of the Winter Meetings on Feb. 8 (KST). The top 40 free agents were selected through a combination of data analysis and opinions from Athletic writers Keith Law, Tim Britton, Aaron Gleeman, Ino Sarris, and Jim Bowden. Ryu was ranked No. 36. Britton ranked Ryu 36th, Sarris 27th, and Bowden 35th, while Law and Gleeman ranked him outside the top five. Regardless, their combined opinions put him in the top 40.
The Athletic believes Ryu can still get a one-year, $11 million contract. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Boston Red Sox, and New York Mets were the three teams that would be a good fit for Ryu. These teams are in need of starting pitching reinforcements.
With two out of five respondents ranking Ryu outside of the top five, it’s clear that he’s not being viewed favorably right now. His age – he’ll be 37 next year – and the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery last year are obvious obstacles.
But Ryu’s agent, Scott Boras, is confident in the major leagues. “There’s still a lot of interest from big league teams,” Boras said before the Winter Meetings. Ryu is confident that he will pitch in the major leagues next year, not in Korea.”레모나토토 주소
“Ryu has a long injury history, with just three 100-plus inning seasons in the last eight seasons, but he’s remained surprisingly effective into his mid-30s. He signed a four-year, $80 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays (just before the 2020 season) and posted a 3.97 ERA in 60 starts. At age 37, he will almost certainly be pushed into free agency on a one-year deal, and will be tasked with backing up an established player in the starting rotation.
There were a few more ambiguous or negative comments that were neither too hopeful nor too desperate. “Ryu averaged 88.6 mph on his fastball last season, one of the slowest among major league starters. But when he’s healthy and throwing at peak velocity, 90+ mph is possible. Ryu succeeds in much the same way he’s always done. He used the strike zone to his advantage, mixing in a changeup and the occasional curveball against right-handed hitters. Still, it’s doubtful that Ryu will be able to build on his upside.
Ryu has so far avoided commenting on his contract. For now, he’s staying in South Korea and letting Boras handle negotiations with major league teams. Ryu was cautiously expecting to have an outline by mid-December after the Winter Meetings, and that time is approaching. With veteran starters such as Genta Maeda (Detroit) and Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson (St. Louis) signing one- to two-year deals, Ryu has high hopes.
While Boras is adamant that Ryu will remain in the U.S., a return to Korea is not completely out of the question. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to command a contract worth more than $11 million in Korea, but if he’s looking for a more stable life, he could choose to return to the KBO, where he’ll be paid the highest salary in the country. When outfielder Shin-Soo Choo signed with SSG Landers in 2021, he received a salary of 2.7 billion won (1 billion won in donations) when he first came to the KBO. Ryu will likely want the same treatment.
Ryu has said that he will wear a Hanwha Eagles uniform when he returns to Korea, and Hanwha is ready to welcome him back while managing their salary cap. Hanwha has been stingy in free agency this offseason, signing outfielder Ahn Chi-hong for 4+2 years and 7.2 billion won. In the second round of the draft, the team opted to bolster its lineup with pitchers Lee Sang-gyu and Bae Min-seo and outfielder Kim Kang-min on the cheap.
Hanwha does not currently have a foreign one-two punch. Felix Peña and Ricardo Sanchez are both on hold and are eligible for re-signing, but they can be replaced if a better player becomes available. For now, we’re waiting to see how the market works out. No Korean starting pitcher has gone over 100 innings except for Moon Dong-ju, the rookie of the year. Even though we lost Kim Min-woo, our number one starter, to a shoulder injury, we still need to solidify our starting staff. That’s why they’re keeping a close eye on Ryu Hyun-jin.
In his 10 years in the big leagues from 2013 to this year, Ryu has compiled a record of 186 games, 78 wins, 48 losses, 1055⅓ innings, and a 3.27 ERA. This year, after returning from injury, he struggled late in the season, but went 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 11 games and 52 innings, proving that he can bounce back from an elbow injury.
Where will Hyun-jin Ryu play next season and in what league? It will be interesting to see if Ryu’s projections hold up.