Hyun-jin Ryu won’t be hitting the open market this offseason. The left-handed pitcher has accepted a qualifying offer from the Los Angeles Dodgers, meaning they’ll pay him $17.9 million to forego free agency for another year and stay in L.A. But he’s one-of-a-kind this offseason.
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) November 12, 2018
The deadline for free-agents-to-be to accept qualifying offers from their former teams was 5 p.m. ET Monday and Ryu was the only player to accept the $17.9 million deal, according to an announcement from the MLB Players Association.
Bryce Harper, Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, A.J. Pollock and Yasmani Grandal were the other players extended a qualifying offer, which is the closest thing MLB has to a franchise tag. If players accepted the offer, they’d remain with their team for one year.
If they didn’t — which is what usually happens; and which is a no-brainer for players like Harper and Corbin who have big paydays coming — they go into free agency with draft-pick compensation attached. Now any team that signs a player who declined a qualifying offer will have to forfeit a draft pick to his previous team.
For a player like Ryu, 31, who spent most of the 2018 season on the disabled list with a groin strain, accepting the qualifying offer makes sense. He went down in May and wasn’t able to make it back to the majors until August. But when he was able to pitch, he was exceptional. He had a 1.92 ERA over 82.1 innings and 15 starts in the regular season. He also had a great start in the playoffs, pitching seven scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Unfortunately, his other postseason starts were not so good — he had a combined 8.25 ERA over his other three starts.
Ryu didn’t begin his career in the U.S. He’s originally from Incheon, South Korea, and spent seven seasons pitching for the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization before moving over to MLB and the Dodgers for the 2013 season. 2018 was Ryu’s best season by far, but his MLB career ERA of 3.20 is nothing to sneeze at. Ryu has lost more than one season to injury, though. He missed the entire 2015 season after shoulder surgery, and pitched just one game in 2016 before elbow debridement surgery knocked him out for the rest of the year.
Despite losing more than half of the 2018 season to injury, Ryu still would have had several suitors if he’d turned down the qualifying offer. While he almost definitely wouldn’t have gotten an offer that equaled the yearly payout of the qualifying offer, he may have been able to secure more years at less money. But Ryu’s injury history is a concern. By accepting the qualifying offer, Ryu gets a year with the Dodgers to show them (and other teams) that he can stay healthy and be productive.
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