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Report: Hyun-Jin Ryu agrees to free-agent deal with Blue Jays

Tim Brown
MLB columnist
Hyun-Jin Ryu is reportedly Toronto bound. (Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Hyun-Jin Ryu, the 32-year-old left-hander who led the major leagues in ERA, agreed to terms on a free-agent contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported.

The deal is for four years and $80 million according to the report.

Ryu cashes in on All-Star season

Ryu was an All-Star for the first time in 2019, seven years after leaving the Korean Baseball Organization for U.S. free agency and, eventually, a six-year, $36 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He played last season with the Dodgers after accepting the $17.9nmillion qualifying offer and was healthy enough to make 29 starts for the first time since 2013, his rookie year.

He also changed his dietary and conditioning habits for the better, a process that included reconnecting with a coach he’d worked with in Korea.

Improvement across the board

His best season resulted. Ryu stood among National League leaders in ERA (2.32) and wins (14). He was third (to Jack Flaherty and Jacob deGrom) in WHIP, second (to Max Scherzer) in strikeouts per walk and led in walks per nine. His leading asset was command — 163 strikeouts and 22 unintentional walks in 182 2/3 innings — and he rode that as frontrunner for the NL Cy Young Award well into August, when his ERA after 22 starts was 1.45.

His next four starts likely cost him that recognition. Over those 2 1/2 weeks, against the Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, Ryu allowed 31 hits and 21 runs in 19 innings. His ERA, bordering on historic, rose to 2.45. He was more effective to finish September and was just so-so in a division series start against the Washington Nationals.

Health matters

Important, for Ryu and the Dodgers, was a season without injury. He’d missed significant time in 2015 and 2016 because of shoulder surgery and setbacks related to it. He was on the disabled list in 2018 because of a groin injury. Since his return in the middle of August of that season, Ryu has made 38 starts. In them, he is 18-8 with a 2.22 ERA.

It was commonly believed Ryu would prefer to remain on the West Coast, even in the Los Angeles area, which offered re-signing with the Dodgers or signing with the pitching-poor Angels.

Ryu will turn 33 before the start of the 2020 season and has yet to prove he can put one full season after the other, representing some risk.

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