Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays get aggressive with signing of Hyun-Jin Ryu

The Toronto Blue Jays have signed Hyun-Jin Ryu to an $80 million contract, adding the veteran lefty to a lineup full of young stars

The Toronto Blue Jays, who never get their man, got their man on Sunday.

After weeks of wooing and incessant rumors, the Blue Jays agreed on a four-year, $80 million contract with free-agent left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, a deal first reported by Jeff Passan of ESPN.

Ryu, who turns 33 by Opening Day next season, has spent his entire seven-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, compiling a record of 54-33 with a 2.98 ERA. In 2019, he led the Majors with a 2.32 ERA in 29 starts and finished runner-up to the Mets Jacob deGrom in National League Cy Young Award voting.

Ryu brings some things that the Blue Jays sorely lacked last season: experience and a proven track record of success. Among pitchers with at least 200 innings over the last two seasons, Ryu has the lowest walk rate in the league. He’s second to deGrom, a two-time Cy Young winner, with a 2.21 ERA. And he’s behind only Justin Verlander, deGrom, Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, and Chris Sale in WHIP.

Just as important for the Blue Jays, Ryu can give them valuable innings from their starting rotation. Blue Jays’ starters recorded an out in the seventh inning just 15 times — once after July — in 2019, second-worst in the league ahead of only the Angels. Ryu alone lasted that deep into a game 16 times. Starters accounted for only 26 wins, ahead of only the Tigers. A consequence of that is the Blue Jays had their relievers throw 17.2 more innings last season than their starters did. As recently as 2016, the last year the Blue Jays made the playoffs, starters pitched 531.1 more innings than relievers.

General Manager Ross Atkins made it a point this offseason to improve the pitching staff, and he’s now done just that. He signed Tanner Roark to a two-year, $24 million deal last week, in addition to adding Chase Anderson from the Brewers and Japanese splitter specialist Shun Yamaguchi. The Blue Jays will now head into 2020 with a projected starting rotation of Ryu, Roark, Anderson, Matt Shoemaker (who’s attempted a comeback from a torn ACL), and Yamaguchi. Ryan Borucki, Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack, and Anthony Kay, whom they acquired in the Marcus Stroman deal at the trade deadline, are reliable back-up options.

The signing of Ryu is the type of move that the Blue Jays just didn’t make under the Atkins’ regime. Fans are used to seeing stars like Stroman head in the opposite direction, out of Toronto, while listening to Atkins preach the mantra of “flexibility” and patience. But the Blue Jays of 2020 will be a markedly different team than the playoff roster that Atkins inherited, with a plethora of young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio. The lineup is taken care of for years to come. It was the pitching staff that needed a major upgrade.

The Blue Jays delivered that on Sunday.

Next: Chicago White Sox sign LHP Dallas Keuchel

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