The Major League Baseball free agent market has moved a lot quicker this winter compared to years past, and while the creme of the crop has signed, Hyun-Jin Ryu remains the best starting pitcher still available.
Part of the reason it has been so fast-moving is that teams have been willing to spend, particularly on starting pitching. Zach Wheeler, Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole and Madison Bumgarner have all signed contracts for at least five years and $85 million to this point, with both Strasburg and then Cole setting the record for largest deals ever for a pitcher.
Ryu was expected to be a beneficiary of those contracts as it was recently reported he would command a deal with a higher annual average value than the five-year, $85 million pact that Bumgarner inked with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While his AAV may ultimately be higher than Bumgarner’s, Ryu’s age and injury history seem to be working against him. Although Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic originally reported that the contract for Ryu is expected to be in the four years, $80 million range, there has since been some pushback:
“Hyun-Jin Ryu, if you remember I reported a couple days ago that the expectation is he’ll get four years, $80 million at least. But I heard from a couple of clubs yesterday that said, ’That’s not going to happen. Sorry, not with that medical history.’ So it remains to be seen.”
Ryu is 32 years of age and has dealt with shoulder, elbow and groin injuries in recent seasons, so it is not surprising that teams are hesitant to commit to him long-term.
He is coming off an outstanding season in which he went 14-5 with a Major-League-leading 2.32 ERA to go along with a 3.10 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, 163 strikeouts and 24 walks in 182.2 innings across 32 starts though, making him an excellent addition to just about any rotation in baseball.
The Dodgers, Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays are the teams that have reported interest in Ryu this winter, although he recently said that he and agent Scott Boras have yet to hear from L.A.
It is not surprising that the Dodgers haven’t contacted him if he is looking for a four-year deal, but if his price tag continues to drop then a reunion could make a lot of sense for both parties.
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