d’Declared to stay in the U.S.’ Ryu Hyun-jin already a free agent “Could sign ML contract next year, future in Toronto uncertain”

d’Declared to stay in the U.S.’ Ryu Hyun-jin already a free agent “Could sign ML contract next year, future in Toronto uncertain”

The future of Ryu Hyun-jin 스포츠토토(36, Toronto Blue Jays) is in the spotlight after his resurgence this year, as he expressed his desire to remain in the United States next year.

Ryu’s 2023 season ended when the Blue Jays failed to advance to the American League Division Series.

Toronto fell to the Minnesota Twins, 0-2, in Game 2 of the American League Wild Card Series at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A., on Friday (Nov. 5), ending their run to the division series with a 2-0 series defeat.

After winning 89 games in the regular season this year and “sneaking” into the postseason as the third American League Wild Card, Toronto was swept in the Wild Card Series by Central Division champion Minnesota in two games. While it’s true that Minnesota won the Central, the Twins’ regular season record of 87 wins and 75 losses was worse than Toronto’s, and they played in a less competitive Central division, making them the favorites to win the series, but the reality is that it wasn’t easy.

And so ends Ryu’s 2023 season. Toronto did not include Ryu on its roster for the Wild Card Series. There was no reason to include the “fifth starter” in the best-of-three wild-card series. If Toronto had advanced to the divisional series, there was a chance that they would have kept Ryu on the roster in order to have more starting options. However, Toronto’s early elimination eliminated Ryu’s chances of making a fall ball appearance.

This means that Ryu’s time with Toronto is effectively over. Ryu’s free-agent contract with Toronto expires at the end of this season. After having the best season of his career in 2019 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA in 182⅔ innings pitched, leading the National League in ERA and finishing second in Cy Young Award voting, Ryu hit free agency and signed a four-year, $80 million deal with Toronto.

Ryu had a successful first season in Toronto, going 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA in 67 innings pitched in the shortened 2020 season and finishing third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, but he struggled in 2021, starting the season as the Opening Day starter and posting a 4.37 ERA despite winning 14 games and losing the ace role to Robbie Ray. To make matters worse, he underwent Tommy John surgery in June of last year, ending his season prematurely.

A year-long hiatus followed. Ryu persevered and rehabbed, and on August 2, he made an emotional comeback against the Baltimore Orioles. In 11 appearances this season, Ryu has pitched 52 innings, going 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA. Most importantly, he hasn’t missed a start since returning from injury. This proves that he is healthy.

This season, Ryu has shown that he has the potential to make a complete comeback, and he has expressed his desire to play in the major leagues next year. Ben Nicholson-Smith, a reporter for Canadian media outlet Sportsnet, said on his social media account on the 5th that “Ryu has expressed his desire to sign with a major league club next season.”

There have been speculations of a return to Korea, but Major League Baseball remains a strong priority for Ryu. If he were to return to Korea, he would definitely return to Hanwha. Ryu began his professional career with Hanwha in 2006 and signed with the Dodgers through the posting system after the 2012 season. According to KBO rules, Ryu must sign with his original team, Hanwha, when he returns to the KBO. Hanwha is preparing to open a new stadium in 2025 and has been monitoring Ryu’s progress. Ryu has promised that he will finish his career with Hanwha. But that doesn’t seem to be the case right now.

Now that Ryu has made it clear that he intends to play in the major leagues next year, it will be interesting to see what happens in the upcoming free agent market. Local media outlets are optimistic about Ryu’s prospects in free agency.

On June 6, MLB Trade Rumors (MLBTR), which covers major league news, reported that Ryu has expressed his desire to play in the major leagues next year, and also predicted that Ryu will remain in the major leagues.

“Hyun-jin Ryu is in the final year of a four-year, $80 million contract with Toronto. After starting his career with Toronto by being a finalist for the American League Cy Young Award in 2020, Ryu posted a 4.37 ERA and 4.02 FIP in 2021 before missing most of the 2022 and 2023 seasons due to Tommy John surgery,” recounting his four years in Toronto.

“Ryu told local reporters that he hopes to continue pitching in the majors in 2024, and as a starting pitcher, it seems reasonable to expect him to sign a big-league deal in free agency,” MLBTR continued, predicting that Ryu will be in the majors next year. This wouldn’t be the case if he hadn’t recovered from his injury this year and proved himself to be healthy. However, ‘MLBTR’ added that it will be difficult for Ryu to sign a long-term contract. “Considering his recent surgery, a one-year contract would be appropriate,” MLBTR said. Ryu is not expected to sign a contract for a long period of time, as his main goal is to stay in the major leagues.

We still don’t know which team Ryu will be wearing next year, but it’s looking increasingly likely that it won’t be Toronto. MLBTR also mentioned left-handed first baseman Brandon Belt, who is also eligible for free agency along with Ryu, and predicted that it’s unlikely they’ll be in a Toronto uniform next year. “At this point, Ryu and Belt’s futures in Toronto are unclear,” MLBTR noted.

The Rays already have a solid 1-4 starting rotation with Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassett, Jose Berrios, and Yusei Kikuchi, and if Alec Manoa bounces back from his struggles this year, there’s no reason for Ryu to stay in Toronto. It will be interesting to see what Ryu chooses to do in the upcoming free agency.

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