Although they were then coming off a 67-win campaign and their third straight year without a playoff berth, the Blue Jays still managed to reel in one of the offseason’s highest-ranked free agents. They added former Dodgers southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu on a four-year, $80MM contract – the largest deal they’ve awarded since Mark Shapiro became team president late in the 2015 season. Shapiro discussed the Ryu signing, among other topics, with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.
Ryu was tremendous at times in Los Angeles, especially from 2018-19, and will now slot into the top of Toronto’s revamped rotation from the get-go. Still, the commitment the Blue Jays made to Ryu no doubt comes with its share of risk. The club is far from a sure thing to be an immediate contender, for one, so Ryu’s contributions early in the deal may not lead to a vast amount of team success. He’s also set to enter his age-33 season and has seldom been the picture of durability since debuting in 2013. Last year marked the first time since 2014 that Ryu threw more than 150 innings in a season.
The Blue Jays are obviously excited about having won the Ryu derby, but Shapiro acknowledged to Davidi that “time will tell the value return” on the pact. He continued: “Free-agent starting pitching in general is a high-risk market and we’re very aware of that. That’s why we’re so careful. You don’t pound your chest over signing someone. You have all your reasons for doing it, you know the risks going in. We identified the need and felt this was one of the best opportunities for us to get better and take a step.”
The Jays are hopeful Ryu will provide value in each year of the contract, but if most of it comes toward the beginning of it, “It’s certainly not ideal but it’s certainly not disastrous,” Shapiro said. He admitted that “contracts get more risky as a player ages, so you would expect to get more on the front side.”
Toronto’s cognizant that it took a chance in signing Ryu, but the fact that the team has so much young, inexpensive talent gave it the necessary “financial flexibility” to make that gamble. With Ryu on the roster, Shapiro’s all the more confident that the Blue Jays are “going to be good,” thanks in part to the “mass of talent” they’ve built up in recent years.