Coming off an encouraging 2018 season, Hyun-Jin Ryu elected to accept the qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers rather than test what’s developed into an unpredictable and at times dormant free agent market.
The decision to gamble on himself paid off, as Ryu put together an All-Star campaign that additionally placed him in the discussion for the National League Cy Young Award. With MLB revising the qualifying offer process for the current collective bargaining agreement, Ryu is now due to reach free agency outright.
He, along with Gerrit Cole and presumably Stephen Strasburg, figure to be among the most sought after pitchers this winter. In some cases — potentially with the Dodgers — teams will be involved in the pursuit of each of the three starters.
During a recent appearance on SportsNet LA, David Vassegh indicated the Texas Rangers could be a club that pursues Ryu, as they scouted him throughout 2019:
“A lot of people believe the Texas Rangers are going to be very aggressive this offseason. … I know the Rangers had a scout at almost every Ryu start. Look for the Rangers to be very aggressive.”
Ryu went 14-5 with an MLB-leading 2.32 ERA across 182.2 innings pitched over 29 starts this season. He additionally posted career bests in WHIP (1.01) and walks per nine innings (1.2) on top of becoming the first Korean born pitcher to start in the All-Star Game.
Though Ryu battled minor injuries this season, he still managed to make the most starts and pitch his highest number of innings since a rookie year in 2013. Prior to this season, Ryu made a combined 41 appearances (40 starts) dating back to the end of 2014, because shoulder and elbow issues limited him to just one start during 2015 and 2016.
The 31-year-old was named 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 also viewed as one of the frontrunners for NL Cy Young Award honors.
Despite Ryu entering an age-32 season, agent Scott Boras deemed the left-hander as being the equivalent of a pitcher five or six years younger when taking into account actual innings pitched. Boras therefore believes Ryu is due to sign a lucrative contract in free agency.
“I’m not sure yet,” answered Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew 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.”