Posted on November 12, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
Monday was an important milestone in the MLB offseason. It was the deadline for players to accept or reject qualifying offers. Of all the free agents on the market this winter, seven received a qualifying offer, and Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers was the only one to accept it. Ryu has effectively signed a one-year deal to remain with the Dodgers in 2019 at a salary of $17.9 million. Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal was one of the six other players to pass on that offer and hit the open market this winter.
Ryu returning to the Dodgers on a one-year deal is likely related to health reasons. He missed all of 2015 and made just one appearance in 2016 because of shoulder trouble. More injuries limited him to 24 starts in 2017. Ryu then missed a large chunk of the 2018 season because of a groin strain. Such a long injury history surely would have hurt his value on the open market, especially compared to fellow lefty starters like Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel.
The silver lining for Ryu is that he was one of the best pitchers in baseball when he was healthy. In his 15 starts in 2018, Ryu was 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA. He also did his best work down the stretch to help the Dodgers win the NL West and reach the postseason. In the postseason, Ryu had his ups and downs but looked sharp at times. If Ryu can replicate the success he had this past season while staying healthy, he could set himself up for a big payday next winter. The chances are good that Ryu will be the best left-handed starter in free agency next offseason.
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The Dodgers, meanwhile, probably have mixed feelings about Ryu accepting the offer. Obviously, they extended him the offer knowing that there was a good chance he would take it. If Ryu does indeed stay healthy, he will surely be worth a salary of $17.9 million. In fact, he could end up being a bargain at that price if he repeats his sub-2.00 ERA.
On the other hand, $17.9 million is a high salary for a player with an extensive injury history. The Dodgers would surely be happy with over 20 starts from Ryu at that price. However, if injuries limit his starts once again, it could end up being a lot of wasted payroll for Los Angeles.
Moreover, the Dodgers aren’t exactly hurting for starting pitching at the moment. With Clayton Kershaw signing an extension, the Dodgers have plenty of rotation depth. In addition to Kershaw and Ryu, Rich Hill, Walker Buehler, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling. That group gives Dodgers at least seven viable starters, most of whom could be described as frontline starters. When you add younger pitchers like Julio Urias, the Dodgers have even more rotation depth. Had Ryu rejected the qualifying offer and signed elsewhere, the Dodgers would have easily survived.
Money aside, the Dodgers aren’t going to complain too much about Ryu coming back. When healthy, he’s undoubtedly a frontline starting pitcher. With pitchers like Kershaw and Hill also missing time due to injury the past few seasons, the extra depth can’t hurt. Also, with a healthy Ryu, there’s a greater chance that the Dodgers will have one of the best rotations in baseball in 2019. He could also end up being a key piece of the puzzle that helps Los Angeles return to the World Series for the third straight season.