After seeking numerous opinions from several different physicians, the Blue Jays announced yesterday that Hyun-Jin Ryu has decided to undergo elbow surgery, effectively preventing him from throwing another pitch this season.
It’s a disappointing development in what has been a frustrating year for the Korean lefty. However, despite his recent struggles and long-term injury, the Blue Jays should not regret signing Ryu back in the winter of 2019. The Korean Monster served his purpose of leading the Blue Jays’ new generation into relevancy and if the organization does manage to win a championship in the coming years, his part in the story will be remembered forever.
The Free Agent Signing That Showed The Front Office Was Committed To Winning
With the Blue Jays set up for success for years to come, it’s easy to forget that just a few years ago, much of the fanbase was skeptical of the direction that Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins were taking the organization. Coming into the 2019/20 offseason, the Blue Jays had missed the playoffs three years in a row and their regular season record was getting worse each successive season.
The team desperately needed an ace to anchor the starting rotation and, perhaps more importantly, a leader who could help reset the team culture and spearhead the team into playoff contention. Fortunately for the Blue Jays, an All-Star, NL Cy Young runner-up, and MLB ERA leader was available on the market. On December 27, 2019, the Blue Jays signed Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year $80 million contract.
It was a sign to the fans and the rest of the league that the Blue Jays were committed to winning. It was the beginning of a new era in Toronto.
A Brilliant 2020 Season and a Return to Playoff Baseball
The Blue Jays signed Hyun-Jin Ryu to be their ace in the rotation, and he was exactly that in the 2020 MLB season. Pitching in 12 games in a COVID-shortened season, Ryu threw seven quality starts, gave up less than three runs in 10 out of his 12 starts, and finished third in AL Cy Young voting.
He led the Blue Jays to their first playoff appearance since 2016 and gave the young players their first taste of meaningful playoff baseball. Moreover, by leading the Blue Jays to the postseason, Ryu helped put Toronto back on the map. With a talented, emerging young core now led by a bona fide ace, Toronto became a popular destination for players looking to win.
It was a stark contrast from the situation just one year ago. Now, the Blue Jays did not have to convince players like George Springer that they were serious about winning. Their potential was already there to be seen.
A Mentor and a Friend On and Off the Field
In addition to his on-field performances, Ryu played a pivotal role in building a positive, winning clubhouse atmosphere and helped many young Blue Jays get acclimated to the big leagues.
Whether it’s developing a bromance with Alek Manoah, treating the Blue Jays’ players and staff to delicious Korean meals during away schedules, or sharing his knowledge to young Blue Jays pitchers, Ryu has been a quiet leader for Toronto.
His experience and veteran presence have helped shaped this next generation of Blue Jays players and the organization is set to reap the benefits for the foreseeable future.
Hyun-Jin Ryu was the first big player to commit to the Blue Jays project. He believed in the front office’s vision and wanted to lead the efforts of bringing a championship to Toronto.
Unfortunately, with his latest injury and the associated recovery time, it may be the case that the Korean Monster never throws another pitch for the Blue Jays. However, his legacy as a Toronto Blue Jay and the role he played to bring this team back into relevancy will be remembered fondly by baseball fans across the country.