The 2019 MLB season officially came to a close with the Washington Nationals winning Game 7 of the World Series, and with that, eligible players across the league became free agents as of 6 a.m. PT Thursday morning.
For the Los Angeles Dodgers it entailed Rich Hill, Russell Martin and Hyun-Jin Ryu no longer being under contract. It represents one of the club’s smaller class of free agents in recent memory. It was due to include David Freese as well, but he announced his retirement earlier this month.
The Dodgers enjoyed the presence of a veteran leader in the form of Chase Utley and Freese over recent seasons, and now face some uncertainty with that role. “It’s incredible,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said.
“For Freeser to only be here for basically a year and two months, and to make the impact he made in that clubhouse just speaks volumes to who he is. It was awesome being around him and getting to kind of see that up close and personal. It will be a real void.
“I’m not sure yet how we’ll fill it but I do know our clubhouse will be a better place next year because of the lasting impact of Chase Utley and David Freese.”
Meanwhile, Ryu figures to be the Dodgers’ most intriguing free agent. He accepted the qualifying offer and passed up free agency last year — and therefore cannot be extended the one-year pact this winter.
Ryu betting on himself paid off as he went 14-5 with an MLB-leading 2.32 ERA. Ryu additionally posted career bests in WHIP (1.01) and walks per nine innings (1.2) over 29 starts this season.
Prior to this year Ryu made a combined 41 appearances (40 starts) dating back to the end of 2014; shoulder and elbow trouble limited him to just one combined start during 2015 and 2016. Ryu battled minor groin trouble and apparent fatigue but otherwise was healthy and made 29 starts this season.
His dominance in the first half led to the southpaw becoming the first Korean born pitcher to start in the All-Star Game. The 31-year-old was a finalist for National League Comeback Player of the Year and NL Outstanding Pitcher in voting for Players Choice Awards, though lost both. He is expected to be in the running for NL Cy Young.
Despite Ryu entering an age-32 season, agent Scott Boras deemed the left-hander as being the equivalent of a pitcher five years younger when taking into account his career innings pitched. Boras therefore believes Ryu is due to sign a lucrative contract in free agency.
“I’m not sure yet,” answered Friedman when asked about the likelihood of re-signing Ryu. “The specifics of players, I just haven’t had time to wrap my arms around. It’s more broad stroke, kind of market things and just getting all of our things for the offseason in order. So I’m not sure yet.”
Hill missed multiple months this season while recovering from a flexor strain in his left forearm, but was effective when healthy. He finished 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA, 4.10 FIP and 1.13 WHIP in 58.2 innings across 13 starts.
Since being traded to the Dodgers the 39-year-old is 30-16 with a 3.16 ERA in 69 games (68 starts) over parts of four seasons. “I would love to get the opportunity to come back here and wear the Dodger uniform again,” Hill said.
“It was a great honor. Hopefully something will play out and I can come back into this locker room and be part of this club.”
Martin’s return to the organization didn’t exactly go as planned but what he lacked in production was made up for through a cohesiveness with the pitching staff. Martin appeared in just 83 games, batting .220/.337/.330 with five, doubles six home runs and 20 RBI.