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Could Choo help lure Ryu to Texas?

November 18, 2019

After a career season that saw him go 14-5 with a Major League-best 2.32 ERA, Hyun-Jin Ryu is now a free agent. Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 32-year-old southpaw.

After a career season that saw him go 14-5 with a Major League-best 2.32 ERA, Hyun-Jin Ryu is now a free agent.

Below is a list of the latest news and rumors surrounding the 32-year-old southpaw.

Ryu: Playing with Choo would be 'special'

Nov. 18: Ryu has been mentioned as a potential target for the Rangers, who happen to employ another Korean in outfielder/designated hitter Shin-Soo Choo.

Choo's presence with Texas could give the team an advantage if it chooses to pursue Ryu. The veteran slugger reportedly has been lobbying for the Rangers to sign the free-agent lefty, and Ryu told reporters in South Korea last week that playing with his countryman would be "special."

Texas is expected to be aggressive on the free-agent market this offseason as it prepares to move into its new stadium in 2020. The rotation and hot corner are their biggest areas of need, and adding Ryu would presumably leave plenty of payroll space for the club to sign one of the top third basemen on the market.

Is Ryu destined to end up just down the coast?

Nov. 16: On the heels of the best season of his career, which netted him a second-place finish in National League Cy Young Award voting, might Ryu end up with a Dodgers division rival just down the coast a few miles? According to MLB.com's Richard Justice, the Padres are perfect for Ryu, and he is perfect for the Padres.

"GM A.J. Preller’s lengthy offseason to-do list begins with a proven arm at the top of a young rotation," Justice writes, "and with the Dodgers seemingly ready to let Ryu walk, the timing appears right." More >

Ryu No. 2 in NL Cy voting

Nov. 13: Ryu's career year earned him a second-place finish for the National League Cy Young Award -- the first time he's ever placed anywhere in the voting.

The Cy Young results were announced Wednesday. Mets ace Jacob deGrom won the NL award, but Ryu was the only other pitcher to get a first-place vote. Ryu finished ahead of dominant NL starters like Max Scherzer, Jack Flaherty and Stephen Strasburg.

Even though Ryu didn't win the award, Wednesday was still a good reminder for free-agent suitors that the MLB ERA king isn't up for grabs every day.

Are Dodgers and Ryu still a match?

Nov. 12: Ryu has played for only one team in his MLB career, which began in 2013 when the Dodgers invested $36 million over six years after the lefty spent seven seasons with the KBO's Hanwha Eagles.

Now 32 years old and a free agent yet again -- remember, he hit the open market last year but ultimately re-upped with LA by accepting the qualifying offer -- will Ryu actually head elsewhere this time around?

In a poll conducted by MLB Trade Rumors asking readers to predict where 10 of the top free agents would sign, almost half of the voters (46.5 percent) thought Ryu wasn't going anywhere. What's more, no other team even cracked 10 percent, with the Rangers checking in at second with a mere 8.6 percent of the vote.

The Dodgers continue to remain deep in arms, but the rotation is somewhat in flux after Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Kenta Maeda, especially with Ryu and fellow southpaw Rich Hill in free agency. LA also has younger options like Ross Stripling, Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May, but a team with championship aspirations might consider trying to hang onto a more proven pitcher like Ryu, who is coming off a career campaign in which he posted an MLB-best 2.32 ERA over 182 2/3 innings.

Ryu could surprise again in 2020

Nov. 9: Could a pitcher who paced the Majors in ERA be considered a "steal" on the free-agent market?

ESPN's David Schoenfield believes so, naming Ryu as the free agent "most likely to be the biggest steal" in his list of superlatives for the 2019-20 class. The reasons why teams might hesitate on Ryu are clear: He's entering his age-33 season, his history is filled with injuries and he faded down the stretch in '19. But Schoenfield writes that there's also a ton to like about Ryu, including his elite walk rate, ability to repeatedly induce soft contact and the improved health he's shown over the last two seasons.

Schoenfield compares Ryu to fellow free-agent Dallas Keuchel as a 30-something soft-contact specialist, but argues that Ryu is more talented and should generate more interest. His ERA title ranked as a surprise in 2019, and perhaps he can be a sleeper success in '20 as well.

Rangers evaluators high on Ryu

Nov. 6: The consensus around baseball is that Ryu will end up back with the Dodgers, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.

But with a 2.21 ERA in 44 starts over the past two seasons, the 32-year-old could be highly coveted on the open market. And after accepting a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer from Los Angeles last season, Ryu is the only one among the top six free-agent starting pitchers, in terms of 2019 FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement, who doesn't have a QO attached to him this year. That means teams won't need to surrender any Draft picks to sign him. He also is likely to command a lower guaranteed deal than four of the five starters who received a QO.

One team in particular that may pursue him is the Rangers, who are expected to be aggressive in improving their roster as they prepare to move into their new ballpark next season. According to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, the club has talent evaluators who are high on Ryu.

While the Rangers need rotation help, they don't necessarily require a No. 1 starter, or even a No. 2, as they have Lance Lynn and Mike Minor under control for 2020. Ryu could slot in as an overqualified No. 3 for Texas, and his contract likely wouldn't prevent the club from pursuing someone such as Josh Donaldson to fill its third-base void.

In its ranking of the top 50 free agents, MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Ryu will indeed land with the Rangers on a three-year, $54 million contract, and that Donaldson will join him in Arlington for $75 million over three years.

Free agent Ryu a first-time Cy finalist

Nov. 4: Ryu's walk year was so good, he was named a finalist for the National League Cy Young Award on Monday.

The BBWAA Awards finalists were announced, and the left-hander joined the Mets' Jacob deGrom and the Nationals' Max Scherzer as the leading vote-getters for the NL's top pitching prize. But Ryu is the only one up for the signing this offseason.

Not only is this the first time in Ryu's career that he's a Cy Young Award finalist, it's the first time he's even placed in the voting. As he enters free agency, his top-three finish couldn't have come at a more opportune time.

Will Ryu return to Dodgers -- again?

Nov. 4: Last offseason, Ryu never tested the open market, as he accepted the Dodgers' one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer in early November. The left-hander isn't eligible for another QO this year, but there's a chance history will repeat itself, with Ryu returning to Los Angeles again.

According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, the consensus around baseball is that Ryu wants to stay in L.A. and the Dodgers would like to bring him back.

Ryu has spent his entire MLB career with the Dodgers since he came over from the Korea Baseball Organization as a free agent in the 2012-13 offseason.

The Dodgers have a number of options to potentially replace Ryu and fellow free agent Rich Hill in the rotation, including Ross Stripling, Julio Urías, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, but some of those hurlers will be needed in the bullpen, and L.A. would be leaving itself with less depth than it usually has.

Of course, the Dodgers could address the rotation with a splashier -- and pricier -- addition such as Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but that hasn't been the team's M.O. under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

Could Ryu join this new powerhouse?

Nov. 3: Ryu sits in the next tier of free-agent starters, alongside Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler, below Gerrit Cole and the record contract he's expected to receive. And that tier could be in the Twins' wheelhouse as they look to build momentum off a 101-win season. The defending American League Central division champions will have most of their record-setting lineup and solid bullpen intact, but their rotation could be a big question mark now that Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda are all free agents.

La Velle Neal III of the Minnesota Star-Tribune estimates that the Twins could have roughly $50 million to spend on free-agent upgrades, which could leave them enough room to sign at least one of their departing free-agent starters (say, Odorizzi) and still add an impact starter like Ryu.

What does the market hold for Ryu?

Oct. 28: Ryu just put up one of the best seasons of any Major League starting pitcher. He's also entering his age-33 season and has a checkered history when it comes to staying on the field. So there's plenty to be determined in terms of how many teams reach out to the lefty, should he enter the free-agent market, and just how many years and dollars they'll offer.

Ryu's agent is Scott Boras, someone who has almost always encouraged his clients to seek the most available money. He has already begun pitching teams on Ryu's future after his first full season in years, telling the Yonhap News Agency earlier this month, "He is, age-wise, 32, but the truth is, innings-wise, he's probably about 26 or 27, because he doesn't have many innings on his arm. That makes him very valuable."

The Dodgers already extended the one-year qualifying offer to Ryu last offseason (which he accepted), meaning he is not eligible to receive it again. That could help his case in the coming months, since teams besides the Dodgers wouldn't have to surrender Draft pick compensation to sign him.

Ryu, by all accounts, loves pitching in Los Angeles and playing for the Dodgers, but there's a good chance he could receive more lucrative offers from competing clubs. It remains to be seen whether the Dodgers would match those offers, or whether Ryu would take a slight discount -- again, something Boras clients don't have a long history of doing -- to stay in L.A.