The Toronto Blue Jays locked up a much-needed starting pitcher on Sunday, agreeing to a four-year, $80 million deal with former Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. The 32-year old enjoyed a great season in 2019, posting a league-best 2.32 ERA while going 14-5 in 29 starts. He finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting while also starting for the NL in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, in what was his first All-Star selection.
The Blue Jays are in dire need of help on the mound. Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark, and Matt Shoemaker are currently the most experienced arms in their rotation. Adding a pitcher of Ryu’s caliber gives Toronto a reliable starter at the top of their staff who can eat up a lot of innings. He, without a doubt, becomes their immediate ace and can help this young team work their way back into contention in the American League.
However, the deal does seem a bit steep for a 32-year-old. Ryu averaged just 90.7 mph on his fastball last season, well below the league average. He definitely relies more on his off-speed stuff and location, but the heater velocity is going to slowly diminish with age in the next couple of years, which could raise concerns. But Ryu has proved over six seasons in the majors that he has the ability to compete every single time he takes the mound. The South Korean has compiled a 2.98 ERA in his big-league career while walking just 1.99 hitters per nine innings.
Great Command of All His Offerings
Ryu has been a strike-throwing machine, commanding all six of his offerings on a regular basis. Last season he actually threw his changeup 27.5 percent of the time, which was his most-used pitch. The heater didn’t come far behind at 27.3 percent, while he also frequently mixed in his cutter, sinker, and curveball. Although he doesn’t throw any pitch extremely hard, the countless amount of pitches in his repertoire keeps hitters off-balanced.
In 2019 his 90.7 mph average fastball was actually a slight tick ahead of his previous season, where the four seamer averaged 90.3 mph. Not a huge difference, but it’s a good sign that even with another year of age, it didn’t hurt his velocity. Although Ryu threw his curveball just 12.2 percent of the time last year, it was his best put-away pitch, posting a 49.1 strikeout percentage with the big, looping 12-to-six breaking ball.
Blue Jays Needed a Blockbuster Acquisition
Signing Ryu was a definite priority for general manager Ross Atkins this offseason, especially after the Blue Jays used 21 different starting pitchers in a disastrous 2019 season where they lost 95 games. Ryu profiles as their 2020 ace, followed by Anderson, Roark, and Shoemaker. Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton will most likely battle it out for the fifth spot in the rotation. The first four names on that list bring experience to a young and promising organization.
Top pitching prospects such as Alek Manoah and Nate Pearson are sure to be a hit at the big-league level once they arrive, as well. Pearson is currently one of the top arms in the minors and could make his major-league debut as early as next season.
There are also rumors that David Price could be a potential trade target for the Blue Jays, which would be a reunion for both parties after the southpaw pitched for Toronto in the second half of 2015.
Regardless of whether they acquire another arm, Ryu was definitely the man Toronto needed to steer their rotation in the right direction. Coming off an outstanding 2019, all signs point to Ryu flourishing in a Blue Jays uniform in 2020.