Toronto has invested heavily over the last three years to build one of the best starting rotations in the American League East. On the Yankee side, young prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Beau Bichette were about to “graduate,” and the team was looking to bolster its ever-present starting rotation to keep pace. The goal was to win district.
In their search for an ace, Toronto signed Ryu to a four-year, $80 million contract ahead of the 2020 season. In fact, Ryu was the team’s ace in 2020, finishing third in the American League Cy Young Award voting. With a taste of an ace in Ryu, Toronto began to add to its rotation more aggressively, spending a lot of money to build what is now a top-tier starting rotation.
After acquiring Jose Berrios via trade in 2021, Toronto signed him to a seven-year, $131 million extension. They added Kevin Gausman (five years, $110 million) and Yusei Kikuchi (three years, $36 million) ahead of the 2022 season and Chris Bassett (three years, $63 million) this offseason to complete the rotation. The team also recently went to a six-man rotation for a short time, including homegrown Alex Manoa and Hyun-jin Ryu, who is returning from elbow surgery.
The Toronto starters have overcome early-season struggles to become one of the league’s most reliable starters in recent years. Ryu’s return has been central to that. After undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow ligaments in June of last year, the right-hander has fought his way back from a lengthy rehab assignment. His fastball velocity isn’t quite back to normal yet, but with a variety of pitches and plenty of experience, it shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance.
The numbers speak for themselves. In his first four games, Ryu has pitched 19 innings, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA. It’s not all luck. His batting average is just 0.214 and his walks per inning allowed (WHIP) is 1.05. While it’s only a four-game sample, his average batted ball velocity, which can be seen as a leading indicator of future performance, is 86.8 mph (139.7 km/h), which is not far off from 2019 (86.6 mph), his peak year.
In anticipation of Ryu’s successful return, Toronto sent Manoa, who has been struggling with velocity, to Triple-A to give him time to make adjustments. And now, many are starting to think about the “future” of Ryu, whose four-year contract with Toronto ends after this season. He’s still young, but he’s clearly showing signs of competitiveness. In addition, the elbow pain that has plagued him so far has been resolved.
Perhaps Toronto was thinking of a “beautiful farewell” when Ryu’s contract is up. As of now, the other five starters besides Ryu are under guaranteed contracts with Toronto through 2024. Major league baseball is based on a five-man starting rotation. There should also be room to bring up prospects from the minor leagues when needed. Ryu, who turns 37 next year, may have seemed like the clear-cut number one option, but things are changing.
This is evident in “Blue Jays Talk,” a podcast program on Sportsnet, the Canadian sports network and broadcast partner of the Toronto Blue Jays. After Hyun-jin Ryu’s second win of the season against Cincinnati on Nov. 21 (KST), the host of the program said, “Hyun-jin Ryu’s recovery since the surgery has been amazing. After Tommy John surgery, precision is the last thing to come back,” he said, citing Ryu’s first four starts as something to watch for.
“It’s just been phenomenal,” Blue Jays Talk wrote, noting that Cincinnati hitters have been chasing Ryu’s pitches all day. “I know it’s a relatively small sample size of four games, but at the same time, he was so good. I just hope he continues to do that.” “Toronto lacks starting depth and Hyun-Jin Ryu has resurfaced. Could they consider bringing him back in the offseason for one year or a 1+1 year option with a mutual option clause?” he asked.
“I don’t know if there’s another team out there that could use a 36-year-old pitcher,” Blue Jays Talk concluded, noting that Toronto has a history of not being good at picking up players at the end of their contracts. However, Toronto could use him for rotation depth. A five-man rotation is set when Manoa returns, but a six-man rotation could give Manoa some breathing room. “I wouldn’t mind seeing Ryu return to Toronto, even though it’s a long way off next year,” he said.
But even if Toronto doesn’t land Ryu, there’s likely to be plenty of demand in the market. Of course, a deal of the magnitude of the 2020 season is out of the question. Ryu has aged four years and had elbow surgery in the interim. But there’s always a demand for experienced fourth or fifth starters in the majors. Especially if they’re lefties. Ryu has shown that he’s capable of being a third starter, unless you’re a championship contender.
It might seem like a 37-year-old, surgically repaired pitcher would be pushed off the market, but that’s not necessarily the case. Noah Syndergaard, whose career has gone downhill since his injury, signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the Dodgers before this season. Andrew Heaney, who is a bit more similar to Hyun-Jin Ryu in that he also has a history of injuries and is a lefty, signed a one-year, $25 million deal with Texas. Heaney appeared in 16 games (14 starts) for the Dodgers last year, pitching just 72⅔ innings. 소닉카지노
Both of these players are younger than Ryu, but Ryu’s overall career is far superior to theirs. At the very least, this suggests that there will be a number of teams looking for Ryu, and with his current market value of over $10 million per year, it will come down to the length of the contract. Rich Hill, who is seven years older than Ryu, also signed a one-year, $8 million deal before this season. It’s harder to imagine that Ryu, who has flaunted his health, will be treated any less favorably.