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, Blue Jays reportedly agree to 4-year contract
Dec. 22: The Blue Jays have agreed to a four-year, $80 million contract with Hyun-Jin Ryu, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman. The club has not confirmed.
Ryu, 32, finished second behind Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom in the National League Cy Young Award voting after posting a Major League-leading 2.32 ERA over 29 starts for the Dodgers in 2019. More >
With Keuchel gone, Ryu has top-end pool to himself
Dec. 22: And then there was one.
Dallas Keuchel’s reported three-year deal with the White Sox leaves Ryu as the last marquee free-agent starter available on the market. The most accomplished free-agent starters behind Ryu, in terms of WAR recorded last season, are Homer Bailey and Iván Nova.
Whether or not this was the plan of Ryu and his agent, Scott Boras, the southpaw can now set up a bidding war among the clubs who missed out on free-agent aces Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler and others. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman speculates that Ryu is "in big position" for a lucrative deal.
The Angels certainly come to mind immediately as a club that needs a frontline starter, even after the Halos inked Julio Teheran to a one-year deal last week. The Blue Jays, Twins and Brewers have been linked to various free-agent starters since the season ended, and Toronto and Minnesota have been among the clubs who have shown the most interest in Ryu (MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Saturday that the Blue Jays extended him “a competitive offer”). And then, of course, there are the Dodgers -- a seeming frontrunner for Ryu to return to all along. Los Angeles finished runner-up to the Yankees in the Cole sweepstakes, reportedly offering Cole a $300 million deal, and it certainly appears to have the financial flexibility to offer Ryu the type of contract he seeks (at least four years and $80 million).
Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that as many as nine teams were in the mix for Ryu and Keuchel, both of whom are Boras clients. Now that Keuchel is reportedly off the board, the Ryu derby could really kick into high gear.
Blue Jays reportedly have made 'competitive offer' for Ryu
Dec. 21: The Blue Jays have been connected to Ryu throughout the offseason, and MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reports that the club made a "competitive offer" for the 32-year-old pitcher, as well as slugger Edwin Encarnación.
Agent Scott Boras told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand earlier this week that he was "deep in negotiations" regarding Ryu and fellow free agent Dallas Keuchel, who agreed to a three-year deal with the White Sox on Saturday.
Per MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal in an article for The Athletic (subscription required), the Angels also remain interested in Ryu, even after agreeing to a one-year, $9 million deal with Julio Teheran.
Rosenthal initially noted that Ryu was expected to exceed the $17 million average annual value Madison Bumgarner received from the D-backs, with two sources predicting a minimum of four years and $80 million for Ryu. But Rosenthal later reported that officials from two clubs had expressed doubt about Ryu's ability to land such a deal, given his medical history.
Angels, White Sox both add starters
Dec. 19: The Angels and White Sox were thought to be two of the top suitors for Ryu and Dallas Keuchel, but both clubs added veteran starting pitchers on Thursday, with the Halos reportedly agreeing to a deal with Julio Teheran and Chicago picking up Gio Gonzalez.
According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Los Angeles hasn't ruled out adding another starter, but it's unclear how aggressive the team will be in pursuing one.
In any case, the Angels have more leverage in negotiations with agent Scott Boras, who represents Ryu and Keuchel. Their rotation current rotation consists of Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani, Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning and Teheran.
As for the White Sox, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score reports that the Gonzalez move doesn't take Chicago out of the running for Ryu or Keuchel. The White Sox rotation projects to be Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Gonzalez, so they arguably have an even greater need for one of the two free-agent lefties than the Angels.
Latest on markets for Ryu, Keuchel
Dec. 18: The big-name pitchers who made up the top tier of free-agent starters already have signed long-term contracts. Ryu and fellow southpaw Dallas Keuchel are pretty widely considered the best options still available, and a number of teams remain in need of rotation help. That puts the duo in a good position to secure their own multiyear pacts.
Two keys to remember with regard to these veterans? Neither is tied to Draft-pick compensation and both are represented by Scott Boras, who has had a huge impact on this offseason by getting massive deals for clients Gerrit Cole ($324 million), Stephen Strasburg ($245 million) and Anthony Rendon ($245 million), among others.
As for Ryu and Keuchel, although Boras didn't specify which teams are in on each, he did say he's "deep in negotiations" for both, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
So which clubs could that apply to? For Ryu, the Rangers, Blue Jays, Angels, Cardinals, White Sox, Twins and Dodgers (the only MLB team he's pitched for to date) have been linked. The list of interested parties for Keuchel also includes the Angels, Cards and White Sox, as well as the Padres and Cubs, per Feinsand.
Ryu, in particular, could be a target for the Halos, who spent big on Rendon but still badly need to address their rotation. Eno Sarris of The Athletic (subscription required) suggests a four-year, $80 million deal could get it done.
With two more pitchers off the board, what does it mean for Ryu?
Dec. 17: Another day, more pitchers off the board during what has become a busy and fast-moving offseason. It was Madison Bumgarner to the D-backs on Monday, and then on Tuesday, a pair of hurlers agreeing to deals, with Kwang Hyun Kim joining the Cardinals and Shun Yamaguchi reportedly agreeing with the Blue Jays.
What does it all mean for Ryu?
Following MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal's report Monday that Ryu could reach a four-year deal with an annual average value around $17 million, the fact that the market for strong starting pitching has gotten so much thinner over the past couple of days could only enhance Ryu's value. After all, he did finish as the runner-up in National League Cy Young Award voting last season and is now the top free-agent starter remaining on the market after Bumgarner, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg signed.
In particular, Ryu's former club, the Dodgers, and their Southern California brethren in Anaheim could be even more eager to land Ryu now that they've missed adding from the Cole/Strasburg/Bumgarner trio. Other clubs in the market for starting pitching include the Twins and White Sox. And don't forget the Blue Jays, as they may have Yamaguchi work out of the bullpen.
Could Ryu top Bumgarner’s deal?
Dec. 16: Ryu ranks among the top free-agent starters available after Madison Bumgarner’s reported signing with the D-backs, and one industry insider believes the southpaw could net even more than Bumgarner.
Industry sources tell MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal that Ryu could exceed the $17 million average annual value of Bumgarner’s five-year, $85 million contract, putting the floor for Ryu’s upcoming deal at four years and $80 million. Ryu accepted the Dodgers’ one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer last offseason, before he went on to finish runner-up in NL Cy Young voting. The Blue Jays, Angels, Twins and White Sox, among others, figure to be in the market for top-flight starters before winter’s end.
Ryu hasn’t matched Bumgarner’s durability over the breadth of their careers. But he has been more effective when able to pitch, so the estimates given to Rosenthal suggests that executives are counting on that upside. Ryu posted a 2.71 ERA across 69 appearances (all but one of them as a starter) over the last three years, compared to a 3.57 ERA across 72 starts in that span for Bumgarner.
Assessing Ryu's market after Kluber and Bumgarner moves
Dec. 16: The Blue Jays weren't known to be in on Corey Kluber or Madison Bumgarner, but Sunday's transactions -- which saw Kluber land in Texas and Bumgarner in Arizona -- might have hurt Toronto's chances of significantly upgrading its rotation, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet writes.
The Jays reportedly have serious interest in Ryu, but the Dodgers could more aggressively pursue a reunion with the left-hander now that Kluber and Bumgarner are off the table. Los Angeles was linked to both pitchers. The club also bid on Gerrit Cole but lost him to the Yankees.
The Rangers can likely be crossed off the list of potential Ryu suitors after acquiring Kluber, but the Blue Jays may still face stiff competition. The Twins, Angels, White Sox, Cardinals and Padres are among the other clubs that could still be in the market for a starting pitcher.
Although Toronto has a strong core of young position players in Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., the team's ability to bolster its rotation could be the deciding factor in how soon it returns to contention.
Toronto has added Chase Anderson and Tanner Roark already this offseason, but landing another starter remains a priority for the up-and-coming club. The Blue Jays are unlikely to be a serious contender until 2021, but next year's crop of free-agent starting pitchers projects to be much weaker. As a result, Toronto could strike a year early.
Are Rangers out on Ryu after Kluber trade?
Dec. 15: The Rangers have acquired two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in a trade with the Indians. The deal gives Texas a formidable rotation -- one that could move forward without Ryu.
The Rangers have been linked to Ryu throughout the offseason, with Sullivan reporting earlier this winter that the club's evaluators were bullish on the southpaw's talents. Ryu has said that it would be "special" to play alongside fellow South Korean native Shin-Soo Choo, who mans an outfield spot in Arlington.
But the addition of Kluber seemingly gives the Rangers a quintet that also includes 2019 standouts Lance Lynn and Mike Minor, and offseason acquisitions Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles. The Rangers still have room below the Competitive Balance Tax threshold to add a star like Ryu, but they might be motivated to address other holes on the roster with Kluber in tow.
The Dodgers are still a frontrunner for Ryu, with the Blue Jays, Twins and Angels also seeming like possible destinations.
Will Ryu be signed away from L.A.?
Dec. 13: With the top few starting pitchers off the board at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings, Hyun-Jin Ryu could be one of the next major free agents to sign, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
Feinsand writes that while Ryu may wait for fellow left-hander Madison Bumgarner to pick a destination first, he should have no shortage of options and could command a three- or four-year deal with an average annual value of $18 to 20 million.
While Feinsand lists the Dodgers as one of the clubs "in play" for Ryu -- who has pitched for the Dodgers since arriving from South Korea in 2013 -- they may have quite a bit of competition. The Rangers, Blue Jays, Twins and Cardinals also make the list.
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi also reported Thursday that St. Louis is "showing interest" in Ryu. The Cardinals not only could use more rotation help in general, but have lacked a lefty starter for the past few seasons -- though Bumgarner or Dallas Keuchel could fill that void as well.
Toronto is another interesting team to watch, with Sportsnet's Shi Davidi reporting recently that that Ryu, "is emerging as one of the Blue Jays' prime targets." That was before the club agreed to a deal with Tanner Roark, but given Toronto's lack of pitching depth, such a move would hardly seem to preclude a match with Ryu.
Do Twins prefer Ryu to Bumgarner?
Dec. 8: Even after re-signing Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda, the Twins still have two rotation openings to address.
The club was involved in the bidding for Zack Wheeler and reportedly offered him $100 million over five years, according to Dan Hayes of The Athletic (subscription required), but the right-hander got a five-year, $118 million deal from the Phillies. With Wheeler off the market, Minnesota is expected to focus on others from the second tier of free-agent starting pitchers, including Madison Bumgarner and Ryu.
Bumgarner to the Twins is one of MLB.com reporter Anthony Castrovince's 11 predictions for the Winter Meetings. However, Hayes puts Ryu slightly ahead of Bumgarner and others at the top of the Twins' wish list.
Ryu had the better season in 2019, but Bumgarner is two years younger and has proven to be far more durable. As a result, Bumgarner could command the longer contract.
"I believe [the Twins] would rather pay Ryu $60 million to $65 million over three years than go five years and $18 million to $20 million per to lock down Bumgarner," Hayes writes.
Ryu, Keuchel could be Angels' fallback options
Dec. 6: The Angels are among the clubs that have met with Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg already, along with the Yankees and the Dodgers. And given the state of the Angels' rotation, the club arguably has a greater need to sign one of the free-agent aces than the Yankees or Dodgers.
Currently, the Angels' starting staff consists of Andrew Heaney, Shohei Ohtani, the newly acquired Dylan Bundy and a bunch of question marks.
If the team strikes out on both Cole and Strasburg, it's interesting to wonder where general manager Billy Eppler would turn next. In an article for ESPN+ (subscription required), Buster Olney suggests that the Angels would consider Ryu, Dallas Keuchel and/or Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner, though, may be off the market by then, which means the Angels' best options could be Ryu and Keuchel.
With Wheeler signed, will Ryu step into the spotlight?
Dec. 5: Zack Wheeler was the most sought-after pitcher in the second tier of free agents below Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. But now that Wheeler has reportedly signed with the Phillies, Ryu could start getting more looks from teams that don't want to break the bank for those top two names.
MLB.com's Mark Feinsand ponders whether the Twins and Rangers, two clubs that were in the running for Wheeler, could look toward Ryu now that Wheeler is off the board. Ryu recently told reporters that it would be "special" to play with fellow South Korean Shin-Soo Choo, who of course mans the outfield in Texas.
Why Blue Jays are after Ryu
Dec. 4: The Blue Jays have a nice young core of promising position players, headlined by the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, among others. If they want to get back to contending in the competitive AL East in the near future, however, it's going to take an upgrade to the rotation.
That's where Ryu and fellow lefty Dallas Keuchel come in.
Both pitchers are "possibilities for the Blue Jays," MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi said in a Tuesday appearance on MLB Network's Hot Stove show. "Because of where the overall starting pitching supply is going to be next winter, it makes a lot of sense for the Blue Jays to court both Ryu and Keuchel now. And I'm told both are on their list."
In other words, this year's crop of free-agent arms is shaping up to be deeper and more impactful than next offseason's batch. It might behoove the Blue Jays to act now, even if they aren't clearly ready to contend yet.
Morosi added that Toronto could benefit from bringing in a veteran starter or two to help shepherd the club's young arms -- like Sean Reid-Foley and Trent Thornton, as well as prospects Nate Pearson, Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch -- as they transition to the big leagues.
MLB Network insider Jon Heyman echoed Morosi in pointing out Wednesday that Toronto is, indeed, among the teams in on Ryu.
Twins reportedly have interest in Ryu
Dec. 2: Although Jake Odorizzi accepted the Twins' one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer, the team still needs to replace three-fifths of its rotation. Minnesota is unlikely to pursue Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but it has interest in the next tier of free-agent hurlers, writes the Minneapolis Star Tribune's La Velle E. Neal III, who names Zack Wheeler, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Madison Bumgarner as specific targets.
The Twins were considered to be one of the teams leading the race to sign Wheeler in late November, according to MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi, but it's looking like the right-hander could command more than $100 million.
As a result, Ryu might be a more realistic target for the club, especially because it has multiple rotation spots to fill. Darren Wolfson of the SKOR North radio station in Minnesota reported on his podcast last week that the Twins checked in with Ryu's agent, Scott Boras. Wolfson predicts the team will land at least one of Wheeler, Ryu and Bumgarner.
What teams might be able to lure Ryu away from L.A.?
Nov. 22: All signs point to Ryu staying where he is comfortable, with the only MLB franchise he's known, in Los Angeles. But if any team is able to lure him away, which might it be? MLB.com's Matt Kelly looks into that, and writes that there are three teams which should really be after him this offseason -- the Yankees, Twins and most of all, the White Sox -- a club that has already been very busy this offseason with the signing of Yasmani Grandal to the largest contract in franchise history, as well as the extension of Jose Abreu's contract.
"Chicago has lost their fair share of games in the past three seasons and the fanbase is obviously hungry," writes Kelly. "The White Sox might have made their best possible move by signing Yasmani Grandal, but they should keep going. If any team is ready to use dollars to convince Ryu to leave L.A., it’s this one." More >
Ryu: Playing with Choo would be 'special'
Nov. 20: 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 presumably would leave plenty of payroll space for the club to sign one of the top third basemen on the market. As a bonus, Ryu -- one of the top repeat free agents, as MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince wrote -- is not tied to Draft-pick compensation like he was a year ago, when he received (and ultimately accepted) the qualifying offer.
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.