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Dodgers: Predicting Hyun-Jin Ryu’s Next Contract

Should the Dodgers make a push to sign the free agent left-hander?

Dodgers
Oct 4, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) reacts after striking out Atlanta Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte (not seen) during the seventh inning in game one of the 2018 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s contract might end up as one of the most heavily debated deals among fans, analysts and executives in recent memory. So what kind of contract should we expect him to get?

This was a point of topic on the latest episode of Dodgers Nation’s “Blue Heaven” podcast. If Ryu is looking in the ballpark of a 5-year, $150M deal as a 33 year-old, should the Dodgers pursue?

A breakdown of Ryu

Ryu is coming off the best season of his career, posting a 2.32 ERA in 182 2/3 innings. He also has a strong track record when he’s on the mound. His stuff isn’t overpowering but he knows how to pitch and has elite command, which could benefit him long term.

He’s also heading into his age 33 season and has an extensive injury history. He missed all of 2015, pitched 4 2/3 innings in 2016, threw 126 2/3 innings in 2017 and 82 1/3 in 2018. The injury list includes nearly everything a pitcher wouldn’t wantโ€”back tightness, shoulder surgery, elbow surgery and a “severe” groin strain where he tore the muscle off the bone.

Still, Ryu holds a career 2.98 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 8.08 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9 in 740 1/3 innings pitched since 2013. Those numbers put him in a very good tier of starters. Since his debut, Ryu is eighth in ERA, 18th in FIP and 23rd in BB/9. The problem is the number of innings, where he ranks 83rd.

Contracts of comparable pitchers

In 2015, Jon Lester signed a six-year, $155 million ($25.8 million average annual value) deal with the Cubs while entering his age 31 season. Lester has posted slightly worse career numbers than Ryu but he’s thrown a lot more innings. He also had a strong playoff history and that was something the Cubs wanted at the time.

In 2016, Johnny Cueto signed a six-year, $130 million ($21.7m AAV) deal with the Giants. He was entering his age 30 season, so he was three years younger but he was coming off back to back years that are very comparable to Ryu’s 2019. They have posted similar numbers in their careers, but Cueto had the longer track record and had been an innings-eating workhorse.

In 2017, Rich Hill signed a three-year, $48 million ($16m AAV) deal with the Dodgers. Heading into his age 37 season, he was four years older, but he might be one of the most similar comparisons for Ryu when you compare their production and injury history. The biggest difference is the four years in age.

In 2018, Yu Darvish signed a six-year, $124 million ($21m AAV) with the Cubs heading into his age 31 season. Darvish was coming off a season where he struggled and he had a decent sized injury history, but he also had top of the rotation stuff and a track record of being a front line starter.

Another comparable starter who signed in 2018 is Alex Cobb, mainly due to the injury history. Heading into his age 30 season, Cobb signed a four-year, $57 million ($14.25m AAV) with the Orioles. The oft-injured starter has been solid when healthy but he is a tier or two below Ryu skill-wise.

In 2019, J.A. Happ signed a two-year, $34 million ($17m AAV) deal with the Yankees. The deal also includes an option year if Happ throws 165 innings or starts 27 games in 2020. Happ’s career hasn’t been as good statistically as Ryu’s but he did have a good four year stretch from 2015-18 that makes him statistically comparable to Ryu during that time. He was also heading into his age 36 season at the time of the deal.

Also signed in 2019 was Patrick Corbin, who inked a six-year, $140 million ($23.3m AAV) deal with the Nationals. Corbin, who was heading into his age 30 season, had a much worse track record but he also had fantastic stuff and was coming off a stellar 2018 season. By some numbers, his 2018 was better than Ryu’s 2019, but he also has some 4 and 5 ERA seasons mixed into his career.

What Ryu should expect

On talent alone, Ryu probably deserves a 4 or 5-year deal worth around $22 to $26 million per season, which would put him somewhere from the seventh-highest to the 15th-highest-paid pitcher in baseball by AAV. Keep in mind, some players signed team-friendly deals before free agency, are still pre-arbitration, or are in their arbitration years.

When you factor in his injury history and age, Ryu will probably lose a year and some cash. It’s hard to see a team committing to him for more than four seasons. He will probably have offers with higher AAVs on shorter-term deals, but Ryu may take less per season to guarantee a longer deal.

It Ryu wants a longer-term contract, expect his AAV range to be from $19m to $21m. If he prioritizes money per season and is willing to cut a year or two out of his deal, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him reach a $25 million AAV.

Keep in mind, Ryu is a Scott Boras client.

Contract prediction

Ryu will sign a four-year deal worth $80 million, signing him through his age 36 season at an average annual value of $20m.

Written by Blake Williams

I graduated with an Associate's Degree in Journalism from Los Angeles Pierce College and now I'm working towards my Bachelor's at Cal State University, Northridge. I'm currently the managing editor for the Roundup News and a writer for Dodgers Nation. Around the age of 12, I fell in love with baseball and in high school, I realized my best path to working in baseball was as a writer, so that's the path I followed. I also like to bring an analytics viewpoint to my work and I'm always willing to help someone understand them since so many people have done the same for me. Thanks for reading!

20 Comments

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  1. If it was up to me, nothing more than 2 years / $44 million with a team option for a 3rd year or an automatic 3rd year at $25 million if he pitches a minimum of 175 innings in the first two years. Poor overall physical conditioning and his injury history are factors far too large to overlook.

  2. If the Dodger’s can’t sign a top free agent pitcher then your almost forced to offer Ryu a 3 year deal at $25 to $27 million.

    • The Dodgers don’t have to do anything, why spend that kind of money on a pitcher that is only available half the time. They won’t do anything until Roberts is gone anyway so bring up your minor league pitchers and see what works.

      • I concur James, and because Roberts will be back in 2020, don’t expect him to do anything different . It really is best to completely lower expectations to the point that if Dodgers should miss the PS altogether, it will be a blessing in disguise because no further bone head decisions or embarrassments will thus take place

      • James, your last sentence is right ion! I believe the world would be shocked if Roberts managed any differently as far as shuffling players and how he manages the pitching staff

  3. I think he will sign with the Dodgers. He is recently married. His wife is from Korea. There is a huge Korean population around SoCal. The Dodgers are very aware of the large Baseball loving Korean fan base.
    I think 4 years around 25 million & maybe more money. But I think he stays despite the fact the Dodgers have young arms that need to make the roster. Depending on their coaches evaluation of Gonsolin, May, Grey and others. I would let him go personally unless he gave them a deal.
    FYI according to reports Ryu is in very good physical condition and a very good athlete. Someone on a medical staff should figure out what he needs to do to stop the groin pulls.

  4. Soft thrower , injury plagued pitcher who faded some down the stretch. This is tough but let the kids play and go get An ace as a 1b to go along w/ ferris Buehler..

  5. Ryu is comparable to an so good often injured Cueto. No one should pay more than 2 years maybe 20mil each year. He without a doubt will be injured a big part of the contract years.

  6. Let him and Hill walk. Sign Rendon with that money, They Go after Cole with the money from the 23mm we save from paying players no longer on the Dodger Roster, trade Hoc and his 10mm from arbitration. R

    We lose 2 high risk soft tossing lefties and a guy who hits home runs, just off righties only. Salaries are a wash, stick Verdugo in left, Rotation of Cole, Buehler, Urias, Kershaw, one of the kids (May), move Maeda to the pen full time. Figure out who closes is all that’s left.

    For the idiots who want to trade Seager, just say no. I will just remind everyone of DeShields for Pedro Martinez.

  7. since he is already 33 i would try to sign him for 2 years and see what happens after that he likes pitching in LA so he might agree to that

  8. you do not know if the kids can pitch for a whole season so his salary might be a little more than what we paid for blisters. You go all in for Cole and trade the likes of joc taylor barnes for some bull pen help. Rendon would be terrific but we won’t pay. Lindor only makes sense if you plan to package seager and one of the aforementioned in a trade. seager to 3rd turner to first does not helpus where we need it.h

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