3:04pm: Ryu will indeed accept the qualifying offer, Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.
12:01pm: Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is “most likely” going to accept the one-year, $17.9MM qualifying offer issued to him by the Dodgers, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link) hears from a source, though nothing has been finalized as of yet. The seven free agents who have qualifying offers pending have until 4pm CT today to accept or decline the one-year contracts.
Of those seven names, Ryu was the only one who seemed like a realistic candidate to accept the QO, given his significant injury history. Separate surgeries on Ryu’s shoulder and elbow cost him all of the 2015 season and limited him to just a single game in 2016, and a torn groin sidelined Ryu for almost three months of the 2018 campaign. The southpaw also had DL stints for more minor hip and foot issues in 2017.
These health concerns surely would’ve impacted Ryu’s stock on the free agent market, plus rejecting the qualifying offer would’ve meant that Ryu’s next team would’ve had to surrender draft picks and potentially international signing pool funds in order to sign him. The QO, Ryu’s health history, and his age (he turns 32 in March) all factored into a relatively modest placement for the left-hander on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list — Ryu was ranked 20th, with a projected three-year, $33MM contract (from the Dodgers).
If he does end up accepting the qualifying offer, Ryu would lock in a big payday for 2019 that is worth more than half of that $33MM projection. The $17.9MM salary, in fact, would represent just under half of Ryu’s entire Major League earnings to this point, as he originally signed a six-year, $36MM contract with Los Angeles for over the 2013-18 seasons. He’ll get another opportunity to prove that he can remain healthy over a full season, while doing so in a familiar environment of Dodger Stadium and playing for a contending team. Ryu is also ineligible to ever receive another qualifying offer in any future trips into the free agent market, and thus wouldn’t have any further draft pick/international money compensation attached to his services.
From the Dodgers’ perspective, committing $17.9MM to an oft-injured starter is something of a risk, considering that the team already has several rotation options in Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Rich Hill, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, and Alex Wood (not to mention youngsters like Brock Stewart or Caleb Ferguson). Starting pitching depth has been a centerpiece of the Dodgers’ success, however, as the team has dealt with injuries to virtually all of its starters over the last few years. Even in the unlikely event that all of these arms stay healthy, the Dodgers could still deploy the excess pitchers in the bullpen — Wood, Stripling, and Maeda all spent time as relievers down the stretch last season.
Furthermore, Ryu pitched so well in 2018 that the Dodgers felt a one-year, $17.9MM investment was worth seeing if the lefty could stay healthy and duplicate his performance. Ryu posted a 1.97 ERA, 5.93 K/BB rate, and 9.7 K/9 over 82 1/3 innings last season, with a 90.2 mph average fastball that was in line with his pre-surgery velocity. There also wasn’t much batted-ball luck baked into Ryu’s numbers, as his wOBA and xwOBA were a perfect match (.268).
Ryu would become the sixth free agent to ever accept a qualifying offer, of the 80 who have been issued the one-year deals since the QO system was introduced for the 2012-13 offseason. Ryu’s situation bears a lot of similarities to that of Brett Anderson, whose own lengthy injury history also factored into his decision to accept a qualifying offer from the Dodgers following the 2015 season rather than test free agency.