The Toronto Blue Jays finished the 2019 season going 67-95, fourth in the AL East. While the record certainly was not great, Toronto had a lot to look forward to. Top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio all debuted and showed promise. The Jays had nine hitters collect 15+ home runs and flashed the potential of being a future offensive powerhouse (which they would become shortly after).
With all of the great hitters the Jays had, they needed pitching. Their best pitcher, Marcus Stroman, was traded to the Mets at the deadline so the Jays were extremely thin in that area.
The Hyun Jin Ryu signing shot the Blue Jays back into contention as they signed an ace to pair with their dynamic offense.
By signing Ryu, the Jays were signing a pitcher who just finished second in the NL Cy Young ballotting with the Dodgers. He was an All-Star, had led the league in ERA and ERA+, and had Jacob deGrom not been as insane as he is, he would’ve won the Cy Young.
While that season was excellent, Ryu had dealt with injuries in the past. He made just 15 starts the season prior (with an ERA under 2.00) and made just one start in 2016. The Jays took a gamble that Ryu would be healthy, and after this latest injury, appear to have lost that gamble. Even with that loss, the deal was still worth it.
"Blue Jays: Hyun Jin-Ryu and his Toronto Legacy"
The Blue Jays went 32-28 and made the expanded playoffs in the COVID-shortened season. Ryu was a huge reason why, as the southpaw went 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 12 starts. He finished third in the Cy Young balloting and led the team in starts and pretty much every relevant statistical category.
Ryu carried a rotation that had Tanner Roark and his 6.80 ERA starting every fifth day to an improbable postseason run. While they lost in the first round to Tampa, it was a very successful season nonetheless.
Following the playoff appearance, the Jays signed George Springer to a lengthy and expensive deal. They also signed Marcus Semien to a one-year deal and brought back Robbie Ray on a one-year deal as well. Had Ryu not done what he did does Springer really sign with Toronto? Does Semien think Toronto was the place he could revitalize his career?
The Jays did not make the postseason in 2021 but were alive until the final day. They finished 20 games over .500 and had shown enough to Kevin Gausman to sign with Toronto despite the Mets reportedly offering more money for his services.
During that 2021 season, Ryu was not his usual dominant self, posting a 4.37 ERA and a just barely above average 102 ERA+, but he did make 31 starts which was huge for the club even with two IL stints on the year. He also pitched five innings of two-run ball on the season’s final day in an effort to try and keep the Jays alive.
Is it disappointing that Ryu’s best season came in a 60-game season? Absolutely. The southpaw will likely not throw another pitch for the Jays after needing Tommy John surgery last week. On paper, getting 49 starts out of a guy who signed that large of a contract is bad, but Ryu was more than that. He led to the other great fortune that Jays have been blessed with the last couple of years and steered them into the positive direction they are in right now.
It’s a deal that did not end well at all, but is also a deal I would do again in a heartbeat.