In the many ways the Los Angeles Dodgers lost traction during the McCourt era, the one that perhaps most rankled general manager Ned Colletti was in procuring international talent.
Dollar by dollar, the budget for tracking and signing international players all but disappeared. The franchise of Campo Los Palmas in the Dominican Republic, of Chan Ho Park and Hideo Nomo, spent less than $180,000 on the international market in 2011. The Texas Rangers, for one, spent nearly $13 million in the same period, or 72 times what the Dodgers had.
When the new money arrived in the form of owner Mark Walter and Guggenheim, then, it came as little surprise that one of Colletti's leading priorities was a return to the worldwide marketplace.
On Saturday the Dodgers acquired the negotiating rights to 25-year-old left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin of South Korea's Hanwha Eagles with a bid of $25.7 million. The club has 30 days to reach agreement with Ryu, who is represented by Scott Boras.
Just 4½ months ago, the Dodgers signed Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, $42-million contract, a record deal for a Cuban defector. At the time, Colletti spoke of becoming "re-invested" in international signings. Three days later, he signed four more international players, three of them pitchers.
The catch-up game continued with Ryu, even as the newly flush Dodgers endeavored to augment their roster through free agency and the payroll ground inevitably toward $200 million. The club has contacted the agents for pitchers Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez and Hiroki Kuroda, among others, and in some cases has made preliminary offers. Colletti also seeks a corner outfielder who could also play first base, and he has considered upgrading the left side of his infield, where Hanley Ramirez has the ability to play shortstop or third base. The bullpen might also be upgraded.
To that plan comes Ryu, assuming the Dodgers are able to reach an agreement with him. Ryu has been one of the Korean league's most effective pitchers over the past five years. He was a member of the team that won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 and pitched for South Korea in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
A five-time Korean league strikeout champion, Ryu is 98-52 with a 2.80 career ERA during seven seasons in South Korea.
Ryu throws in the low 90s. He has been compared to Wei-Yin Chen, the Taiwanese left-hander who went 12-11 with a 4.02 ERA and 154 strikeouts for the Baltimore Orioles last season.
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