While Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg have garnered the most headlines among the 2019 MLB free agent class, the rest of the field consisted of talented players in their own right.
The group included Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is coming off a career 2019 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting. The left-hander represented a solid fallback option to teams that miss out on Cole and Strasburg.
Though the Dodgers were believed to have interest in re-signing Ryu, he was also a target for other clubs and reportedly agreed to a four-year, $80 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The free-agent pool for starting pitching, as deep as it is, was further bolstered with the addition of Korean pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim. He was officially posted by the SK Wyverns, and all 30 teams were eligible to negotiate for his rights.
Ryu recently said he has envisioned a scenario where he faces his fellow countryman next season, but wants to cross that bridge when he gets there, via Yonhap News Agency:
“I think it’s just going to be a burden for both of us,” Ryu told reporters Wednesday after a local baseball awards ceremony in Seoul, where he received a Special Achievement Award. “It’d be great if we can just meet each other off the field. I’d rather not go up against him on the mound.”
Ryu said he hasn’t yet spoken to Kim about the possibility of meeting in the big leagues, saying, “I don’t want to get too ahead of myself.”
The Dodgers reportedly were among the five teams showing early interest in Kim. Teams had until Jan. 5 to submit their bids, and he wound up signing with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The 30-year-old went 17-6 with a 2.51 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 31 games (30 starts) this past season. It marked his second full year since missing all of 2017 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Kim was previously posted in 2014, when the San Diego Padres won the bidding at $2 million. However, the two sides were unable to come to terms on a contract, prompting Kim to remain in the KBO for another five seasons.
As fate would have it, Ryu jumping to the American League won’t necessarily prevent him from facing Kim, as the Cardinals and Blue Jays will meet at Busch Stadium from June 1-2, 2020.
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