Ryu Hyun-jin (36, Toronto) was a question mark just three months ago. After undergoing elbow ligament reconstruction surgery (Tommy John surgery) in June last year, there were times when it was unclear if he would even return to the field this year.
At the time of his surgery last year, local media said “Ryu may have already pitched his last game in Toronto” for a reason. The rehabilitation period for Tommy John surgery ranges from one to one and a half years. This was Ryu’s second Tommy John surgery of his career. He’s also a veteran in his mid-30s. It was reasonable to expect a longer rehabilitation period than a younger player undergoing his first surgery.
Ryu’s contract with Toronto expires this year, so he could have hit the free agent market without ever wearing a Toronto uniform again. But Ryu’s hard work has kept the rehab clock ticking and he’s closer to his goal of returning to the field. Still, the skepticism about Ryu hasn’t abated. “It’s going to be hard for him to find his old form,” were some of the negative predictions.
As a veteran in his mid-30s returning from major surgery, it was hard to put any stock in this outlook. Local media outlets began to argue that Toronto needed to acquire a starting pitcher before the trade deadline. They didn’t have much confidence in Ryu. But Ryu has put all those concerns to rest and is cruising. He’s exceeded expectations. He has the potential to be Toronto’s savior.
As of Aug. 8, Ryu has started seven games this season and has a 3-2 record with a 2.65 ERA in 34 innings pitched. It’s a small sample size, but it’s clear from his numbers that he’s pitching well. He has a .219 batting average and a 1.06 walks per inning allowed (WHIP). His velocity is well controlled.
His velocity is not fast. His velocity didn’t recover in 2021, the year before his surgery. However, he has a knife-like delivery. He has five different pitches that he throws to different hitters. The difference in pitches, velocity, and command allows him to wreak havoc on hitters. While he does give up a lot of runs, he rarely gets hit by back-to-back home runs. Veteran, Ryu’s class.
Just three months ago, the consensus was, “If he enters the free agent market without a solid track record, he could be in for a rough ride.” There was even negative public opinion that if he skipped all of 2023 due to injury, he might not even get a guaranteed major league contract and would have to start with a minor league contract. There were expectations that he would return to his hometown team, Hanwha.
However, the situation is much different now. MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, included Ryu’s name in a column on Monday that profiled nine prospective free agents who should finish well in 2023. The outlook is positive. Instead of a one-year deal, there are indications that a multi-year deal is possible.
“Typically, pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgery take a long time to get back on track, but Ryu is a different story,” MLB.com wrote, noting that “in seven starts since returning from (the surgery), he has pitched 34 innings with a 2.65 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, helping to fill the void in Toronto’s rotation that was left by the absence of Alex Manoa.
The report concludes with a positive note, saying that “Ryu, 36, is unlikely to get a four-year, $80 million free-agent contract (like the one he signed with Toronto),” but that “if he continues his current form, he could get a multi-year free-agent deal that seems out of reach.
Ryu already has a proven track record in the majors. His ERA ranks sixth or seventh among active major league pitchers with more than 1,000 innings pitched. While it’s natural for physical performance to decline with age, Ryu has never been a pitcher who relied on his velocity, even at his best. It’s possible that his decline curve is relatively gentle. He also has a history of injuries, but his elbow surgery cleared that up.
Even championship teams rarely have all five starters available, and injuries are a factor. If you’re a championship contender, Ryu can be your third to fifth starter. He’s not going to be signed for more than four years anyway, so the payroll is manageable. At the opposite end of the spectrum, rebuilding teams need a veteran pitcher to fill in the gaps until the youngsters develop. Again, a two- to three-year deal is often the solution.
That’s why there should be plenty of demand for Ryu, who is still showing off his pitching quality, even if he hasn’t shown it yet. Furthermore, starting pitching is scarce in free agency these days. Even players with much less experience than Ryu and a history of injury are scratching their heads like lottery tickets. It’s not uncommon for players to command $10 million or more per year.
One example is Andrew Heaney, who is a bit more similar to Hyun-jin Ryu in that he has a history of injuries and is a left-hander. Heaney is younger than Hyun-jin Ryu, but his injury history and overall career has been less than stellar, and he signed a one-year, $25 million deal with Texas before this season. Heaney appeared in 16 games (14 starts) for the Dodgers last year, pitching just 72⅔ innings. In fact, his health the season before was worse than Ryu’s.메이저사이트
Rich Hill, a veteran seven years older than Hyun-jin Ryu, also signed a one-year, $8 million deal with Pittsburgh before the season. Hill is a veteran of reversals, but his career has gone downhill. He’s hardly more valuable than Ryu. Nevertheless, $8 million is not a bad deal. Furthermore, there are fewer starting pitchers on the market this year with the departures of Shohei Ohtani and Julio Urias. It’s safe to assume that the market for Hyun-jin Ryu won’t be tight either.