Where EAST meets the Northwest
SUPERB STARTER. Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Korean left-hander who recently signed a
four-year, $80-million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, is the fourth pitcher to
join the Blue Jays during the offseason. (Cole Burston/The Canadian Press via
Toronto has signed Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi from the Yomiuri
Giants. (AP Photo/Toru Takahashi, File)
From The Asian Reporter, V30, #01 (January 6, 2020), page .
LHP Ryu gives Blue Jays ace to pair with talented young core
By Ian Harrison
The Associated Press
TORONTO ó Hyun-Jin Ryu is the ace the Toronto Blue Jays needed to pair with a
lineup flush with "baseball royalty."
Thatís the view agent Scott Boras has of the four-year, $80-million deal that
brought the Korean left-hander north of the border.
Ryu agreed to join the Jays in December, then flew in from Korea for an
introductory news conference, greeting a live television audience with a wide
smile and a few words in each of his new home countryís official languages.
"Hello, Canada," Ryu said. "Bonjour. Iím happy to be here and Iím going to
make the Toronto Blue Jays proud."
Ryu was 14-5 with a major-league best 2.32 Earned Run Average (ERA) for the
Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He started for the National League in his first
All-Star Game and finished second in Cy Young Award voting to New York Mets ace
Ryuís is the second-biggest free-agent deal in Blue Jays history, trailing
only the five-year, $82-million contract former general manager Alex Anthopoulos
gave catcher Russell Martin in November 2014.
"This is the next step in what we feel is a plan to build a sustainable
championship team," Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said.
General manager Ross Atkins praised Ryu for his "insane athleticism" and his
ability to get outs with different pitches in all four corners of the strike
"You truly are fun to watch play," Atkins told his new ace.
Toronto needed a dependable starter to stabilize its rotation and help get
the most from its crop of young talent, including four sons of former players, a
group Boras regards with regal admiration.
"It was very clear from our conversations with Mark that the Blue Jays were
willing to move forward and start building a base to complement the young
players they have, and advance the royal youth to a level of championship play,"
Now, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Lourdes Gurriel
Jr. have a starter they can rely on to keep them in games.
"We got one of the best pitchers in baseball," manager Charlie Montoyo said.
"Weíre going to have a chance to win every time he takes the mound."
Toronto isnít the first place where Ryu has teamed with a talented young
"When Hyun-Jin played for the Dodgers, you saw this happen with (Corey)
Seager, with (Cody) Bellinger," Boras said. "We certainly expect the royal youth
of the Blue Jays [to continue] to grow at that pace."
Three or four other teams were in the hunt, Boras said, including the
Dodgers, who had "competitive interest" in retaining Ryu. No suitor was more
tenacious than Toronto.
"Thereís not a week that went by that Ross wasnít calling," Boras said.
That persistence made an impact on Ryu.
"Toronto was one that first pursued me, and continued to pursue, and thatís
why Iím here," he said through a translator.
Ryu is the fourth pitcher to join the Blue Jays so far this offseason.
Toronto signed right-hander Tanner Roark to a $24-million, two-year deal,
acquired right-hander Chase Anderson from Milwaukee, and signed Japanese
right-hander Shun Yamaguchi from the Yomiuri Giants.
No starter won more than six games for Toronto in 2019, and the rotation
ranked 22nd out of 30 teams with a 5.25 ERA. The Blue Jays went 67-95, finishing
fourth in the AL East for the third straight season.
Ryu, who turns 33 in March, spent his first seven big-league seasons with the
Dodgers after coming over from South Korea and signing a $36-million, six-year
contract before the 2013 season. He was effective the first two years but sat
out the 2015 season and made only one appearance in 2016 because of left
shoulder surgery and elbow tendinitis. He also missed time in 2017 with injuries
to his left hip and foot.
Ryu reemerged with a 1.97 ERA over 15 starts in 2018 and accepted a $17.9
million qualifying offer from Los Angeles for 2019, when he threw 182 2/3
innings in 29 starts for the NL West champions.
Ryu, who wears jersey No. 99, was asked whether he was familiar with Canadian
hockey icon Wayne Greztky, the last sports star to make a splash by moving
between Los Angeles and Canada.
"Canada lent number 99 to L.A.," Boras joked. "With Hyun-Jin, we thought weíd
return it back to Canada."
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