Reflecting on Hyun Jin Ryu's impact on the Blue Jays

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 17: Hyun Jin Ryu completes third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 17: Hyun Jin Ryu completes third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Several reports confirm that the Hanwha Eagles are signing Hyun-Jin Ryu to a eight-year contract, all but guaranteeing the end of his MLB career. The Korean left-hander is going back to where it all started for him in 2006, and Blue Jays fans around the world are feeling bittersweet. Ryu has now finished his four-year contract with the Jays, and while there were definite highs and lows, he signified a new era of the team and the direction they were heading in. He turned himself into a very important player in the club's franchise history.

Ryu's initial deal with the Jays

The 2019 Blue Jays were coming off a rough season. A 67-95 record and 4th place finish in the AL East meant that the Jays' better brand of baseball was ahead of them. There were encouraging signs however, with Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. all making their debuts that year. Good things were on the horizon, the team just needed a little push. That's where Ryu came in. On December 27th, 2019, the Jays signed him to a four-year, $80M deal, and everything changed. This was no longer a team that was put to the side for the better clubs in the American League. The Jays now had a chance to compete.

Ryu was the one of the first stepping stones to build the current Blue Jays identity. The team was young, unaccomplished, and coming off of a poor year. Ryu choosing to sign here and buying in on the young teams potential was crucial to both the organization and the fans. Signing him felt like a statement to say, "The Toronto Blue Jays are here to stay." The team desperately needed a top of the line starter to pave the way, and they got one in Ryu.

Ryu's Influence

Ryu wasn't just an important signing for the on the field contributions. As a veteran, he played a pivotal role in mending the young guys, nobody more significantly than Alek Manoah. Ever since Manoah was called up in 2021, Ryu had been by his side, acting as the perfect mentor to a young developing pitcher. "He’s a huge role model. He’s definitely like a big brother to me, somebody that I can look up to," Manoah said. "He’s been through a lot of the things that I’m going to be getting ready to go through. He’s been in my footsteps before. I just have a ton of respect for him and everything he’s done in the league."

Not just a figure for his teammates, Ryu was an ambassador of the game for the Jays. In 10 years in MLB, the now-36-year-old finished with a career 78-48 record, 3.27 ERA, and 3.53 FIP, making him one of the best Korean pitchers in the history of the sport. As a result, Ryu has amassed a lot of support from Korean fans across the world. CEO of the Korean Canadian Baseball Association J.C. Kim has stated how Korean media has been widely invested in where Ryu would end up, resulting in much more focus and support surrounding the Toronto Blue Jays.


It wasn't always a smooth progression for Ryu. His 2022 season was quickly put to an end after suffering damage to his ulnar collateral ligament, resulting in Tommy John surgery. Many fans believed that was the last time Ryu would pitch in a Jays jersey. Despite being written off, he recovered from his injury and came back for the Blue Jays at a critical time. On August 1st, 2023, Ryu made his return and proceeded to shine as the Jays' 5th starter until the end of the season. It was Ryu's reliability that kept the team in the hunt, making his final stretch with the team even more special.

The Jays have made some great signings over the years. And with the current core in place, the organization has continued to add notable players to aid the goal of winning a championship over the years. The outlook of the team could look much different if not for the Ryu signing, declaring that this team was ready to commit to a winning product. As he moves back to Korea to re-unite with his old team, Jays fans will treasure the mark Ryu left, and what he symbolized going forward.