Former Blue Jay Hyun Jin Ryu discussing a return to the Hanwha Eagles

A potential record setting contract for the KBO to return to where he began his professional career.


Jee-ho Yoo of Korea’s Yonhap News is reporting that former Dodgers and Blue Jays starter Hyun Jin Ryu is nearing a return to the Hanwha Eagles, the team he made his KBO debut with in 2006.

As we’d reported last November, Ryu did already tell Yoo last year that he would finish his career with the Eagles. However, coming out of the GM Meetings in early November, Ryu’s agent Scott Boras did say Ryu would pitch in MLB [this] year, not Korea.

That might no longer be the case, barring a last minute change of heart. According to Yoo, the Hanwha Eagles plan to announce Ryu's contract later on Tuesday. He will become the highest-paid player in the KBO.

Ryu debuted with the Eagles in 2006 at age 19, and won the league’s MVP and Rookie of the Year awards on the back of 18 wins, a 2.23 ERA, and a rookie-record 204 strikeouts over 201.2 innings. In a seven year run with the Eagles, the big lefty went 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA in 190 appearances. Hanwha posted him after the 2012 season, making him available to MLB teams.

After bidding ~$25M for the rights to exclusive negotiation with Ryu, the Dodgers signed him to a six-year, $36M guarantee with various performance bonuses in December 2012. That contract would prove very valuable, as Ryu went 54-33 with a 2.98 ERA over 125 starts and 740.1 innings in Dodger Blue, with an outstanding ERA+ of 129, FIP of 3.32 and WHIP of 1.164 over his six seasons in LA.

After accepting the Dodgers qualifying offer following 2018, Ryu would parlay a brilliant 2019 season, pitching to an MLB-best 2.32 ERA over 182.2 innings with an All-Star selection and a runner-up finish to in NL Cy Young balloting to Jacob deGrom, into a four-year, $80M free agent contract with Toronto.

That move heralded the end of the Blue Jays rebuilding process from 2017-2019, and Ryu would go on to a stellar pandemic-shortened 2020 season, helping the Jays to a wild card berth in the expanded playoff format that year with a 5-2 record and 2.69 ERA over 12 starts and 67 innings, with an ERA+ of 164 and a 3.01 FIP, which earned him enough votes to finish 3rd in AL Cy Young voting.

He would go on to an injury-shortened 24-15 record with a 3.97 ERA in 60 starts and 315 innings with Toronto; his ERA was 10% better than the MLB average over those four seasons, and he proved to be the equivalent of a valuable trade deadline acquisition in 2023, when he would return from Tommy John surgery to help the Jays down the stretch, pitching to a 3.46 ERA over 11 starts and 52 innings.

A four-year contract with Hanwha would take Ryu through his age 40 season, and surely would mean the end of his excellent 10-year MLB career, with a combined 78-48 record and 3.27 ERA over 186 appearances (185 starts) and 1055.1 innings.

While that may be disappointing for Blue Jays fans hoping for a reunion in 2024, a potential record-setting KBO contract, and an opportunity to finish his professional career where it all began in front of his home country fans sounds pretty, pretty good. We wish him all the best and thank him for his four years in Toronto that marked the opening of the current competitive window. 류현진님, 감사합니다!!