One of the biggest surprises for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019 was the emergence of Hyun-Jin Ryu as a true ace. Coming of an encouraging season, he led all starters in ERA and finished second behind New York Mets righty Jacob deGrom in the National League Cy Young voting.
Ryu has always been solid in his time with the Dodgers, but after missing almost all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons with shoulder and elbow injuries, no one could have predicted that he would emerge as one of the league’s best pitchers.
He went 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA, 3.10 FIP and 1.01 WHIP in 29 regular-season starts, tossing 182.2 innings which was the most for him since his rookie season in 2013.
The left-hander accepted the Dodgers’ qualifying offer last winter, so he entered free agency this year without a compensation attached to him. It could not come at a better time for the 32-year-old as not only is he coming off a career season, but this winter’s free agency class is also not the deepest.
As Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman presumably prepares for multiple conversations with Ryu’s agent, Scott Boras, he emphasized how much respect the organization has for the pitcher, via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“There are always discussions,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Wednesday at the general managers meetings. “I think with all talented players available in the marketplace, it’s our job to have conversations. So I think it’s safe to assume there are conversations [regarding Ryu] — and just the amount of respect we have for him.”
Other than Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, Ryu is arguably the third-best starter available on the free-agent market. The Dodgers have a need for a starter and Ryu has expressed interest in returning to Los Angeles, although the two sides have not seriously begun negotiating a contract yet.
This offseason is a pivotal one for the Dodgers as they are coming off another disappointing season in which they won a franchise-record 106 games but were defeated by the Washington Nationals in the NL Division Series.
Los Angeles has plenty of money to spend, but Friedman has been unwilling to sign starting pitchers to long-term contracts in the past. That would rule them out of the Cole and Strasburg sweepstakes, making Ryu returning a more likely scenario.
Other teams like the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers are expected to pursue him as well though, so things could start to get interesting in the near future.
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