Left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu is once again expected to hit free agency this offseason after a strong but injury-riddled stint with the Toronto Blue Jays. The 36-year-old signed a four-year, $80M contract with the Jays prior to the 2020 season and is now in line for what could be another multi-year pact.
Tommy John surgery in 2022 held Ryu back in each of the past two years. He returned to the big league mound in August of this year and made 11 starts down the stretch for the Jays. However, once the postseason came around, he was left off of the Wild Card Series roster. The southpaw spoke with Jeeho Yo, a sports writer from Yonhap News in Seoul, South Korea; saying, "I understood the team's decision. But I was getting ready to pitch in the rounds beyond the Wild Card round. It would have been great if the team had won."
Truer words have never been spoken.
Of course, leaving Ryu off of the WC roster felt like a strong possibility all along. After all, the series was a best-of-three, so all five of the Blue Jays starting pitchers were not need to begin with, hence Yusei Kikuchi's Game 2 availability out of the bullpen. Ryu is more of a strict starter, as he has made just a single relief appearance in his decade-long stint in Major League Baseball.
Yoo spoke to Ryu about multiple other topics as well, including the controversial early removal of José Berríos from his WC start. "As José said, there's nothing you can do about it as a pitcher. You have to accept it. But from a pitcher's perspective, it must have been disappointing", he said. "It was still early in the game and he hadn't given up any runs."
In regards to his time on the Blue Jays, Ryu said, "time flew by really fast. We had COVID, we even played in Buffalo for a bit. Time went by faster than I thought." While not impossible, Ryu's return to the Jays feels unlikely moving forward. Despite his age, he could easily land a two-year contract and the Jays would be wise to pass on that given his spotty injury history.
Interestingly, Yoo mentions that Ryu made a pledge to fans of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) that he would finish his career with the Hanwha Eagles. The left-hander said, "I haven't changed my mind on that. I will absolutely make that happen." Now it's just a matter of whether he decides to do that this offseason or after his next contract is up.
In 60 starts as a Blue Jay, Ryu went 24-15 with a 3.97 ERA, 4.02 FIP and 110 ERA+. While the club did not get the longevity they were undoubtedly hoping for from him, he was a steady presence in the rotation when healthy and we wish him all the best moving forward.