As the list of top-tier free-agent starting pitchers dwindled faster than anticipated this offseason, Hyun-Jin Ryu stood as a suitable fallback option for both the Dodgers and Angels. The Dodgers could have engineered a reunion to plug him back into the top of their rotation. The Angels seek an elite starter and he would have been considered their ace.
But Ryu isn’t staying in Southern California. The left-hander agreed to a four-year, $80-million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, concluding his seven-year tenure as a Dodger.
Ryu established himself as the best pitcher in South Korea before he signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers in December 2012. His major league career began with promise -- he posted a 3.17 earned-run average in 56 starts over his first two seasons -- before injuries surfaced.
He enjoyed his healthiest season in 2019 and, consequently, had his best season. His 2.32 ERA and 1.2 walks per nine innings led the majors. His 182 2/3 innings pitched were his most since his rookie season. He started the All-Star Game for the National League and finished second in the Cy Young award race to the New York Mets’ Jacob deGrom. He even clubbed his first home run as a major leaguer.
For his career, Ryu owns a 2.98 ERA and 3.32 FIP in 125 starts and one relief appearance. He has proven to be one of the better starters in baseball when available.
But Ryu comes with questions. He turns 33 in March and his injury history is not brief. The most severe issue — a torn labrum in his left shoulder — limited him to one start between the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He missed three months in 2018 with a torn groin muscle and suffered more groin trouble, though minor, in 2019.
The concerns did not prevent the Blue Jays from committing $80 million to Ryu through his 36th birthday. The aggressive move leaves the Dodgers without one of their frontline starters, but they boast solid depth and have the capital to execute a trade for a premier pitcher this offseason. As it stands, the Dodgers’ rotation consists of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias with Ross Stripling, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin as options to round out the group.
The Angels, meanwhile, are running low on choices to bolster a rotation that finished with the second-highest ERA in the majors last season. While they landed All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon with a seven-year, $245-million deal, their pitching acquisitions do not reside in the same echelon.
Right-handers Dylan Bundy and Julio Teherán provide proven depth and some upside, but they are not bona fide No. 1 starters. Two-way player Shohei Ohtani has the potential, but he will be limited as a pitcher after Tommy John surgery. With about $25 million left to add players, the Angels considered Ryu as the top target to fill the hole. Instead, he will move to Canada and the American League to pitch for a young club on the rise with one of the most talented young cores in baseball.