After closing out the 2018 season on a strong note, the Los Angeles Dodgers extended Hyun-Jin Ryu a one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer. Rather than test free agency, the left-hander accepted it and returned to the organization for a sixth season.
Ryu was essentially betting on himself to continue pitching at a high level, which in theory would translate to a lucrative, multi-year contract the following winter.
With both Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill sidelined to begin the 2019 season, Ryu was tabbed with starting duties for the Dodgers on Opening Day. In six innings of work, he limited the Arizona Diamondbacks to just one run on four hits while striking out eight batters.
The outing kicked off what would be a dominant first half for Ryu, who allowed two or fewer runs in 16 of his 17 starts. He overall went 10-2 with a 1.73 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 109 innings prior to the All-Star break.
Ryu’s excellent showing was recognized in the form of his first career All-Star Game selection. He was later named starting pitcher of the National League by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, becoming the first Korean-born pitcher to start in a Midsummer Classic.
While Ryu’s production waned a bit in the second half, he was nevertheless effective, going 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP with 64 strikeouts against seven walks across 73.2 innings pitched.
In 29 starts during regular season, Ryu compiled a 14-5 record and posted the lowest ERA among qualified pitchers at 2.32. He additionally led all of baseball in ERA+ (179) and walks per nine innings (1.2), logging the most innings pitched in a single season since his rookie campaign in 2013 (182.2).
Ryu was also efficient in his NL Division Series Game 3 start against the Washington Nationals, yielding two runs on five hits in five innings of work.
The 32-year-old finished second in NL Cy Young voting and 19th in MVP voting, accumulating a career-high 5.1 WAR, per Baseball-Reference’s calculations.
In a season filled with many quality starts, Ryu enjoyed his finest performance on May 7 against the Atlanta Braves. He tossed a complete-game shutout, yielding only four hits with six strikeouts.
Another memorable moment took place on Sept. 22, when Ryu hit his first career home run against Colorado Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela.
Ryu was one of four Dodgers to reach free agency at the conclusion of the World Series. While it was believed he had some interest in returning to L.A., it doesn’t appear the two sides ever engaged in serious negotiations.
Ryu was the beneficiary of a strong market for starting pitchers, receiving interest from many American League teams. On Sunday night, he reportedly came off the board after agreeing to a four-year contract worth $80 million with the Toronto Blue Jays.
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