In the first concrete rumor of the Texas Rangers offseason, TR Sullivan of MLB.com reports that the club is “high on” LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu.
The Texas Rangers being linked to Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu isn’t exactly a surprise as they look to bolster a rotation fronted by Mike Minor and Lance Lynn. Both Minor and Lynn had career seasons last year making the rotation much more impressive than perhaps thought at the beginning of the season. Texas definitely will need to add at least one legitimate starter though to have a real shot at competing for a playoff spot.
TR Sullivan of MLB.com noted in his weekly Inbox column, that “The Rangers have talent evaluators who are high on [Ryu].” Ryu is coming off a Cy Young worthy season with the Dodgers in which he made 29 starts with a 2.32 ERA, 3.10 FIP and 4.8 fWAR. He maintained a solid 8.03 K/9 rate while allowing just 1.18 BB/9 and only 0.84 HR/9 last season.
Despite those outstanding numbers, he has some red flags which explain why he is down a tier in terms of free agent starting pitchers. Ryu threw 182.2 innings last season, the first time he has thrown more than 150 innings since 2014, his second year in the Majors. Injuries have piled up for the 32-year old starter and Sullivan notes that he has had at least one injury per season for the past six years.
Additionally, across his career, while he has been effective on the road, he’s has benefitted considerably from making nearly half his starts in a pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. In 377.2 innings at home, Ryu has posted a 2.62 ERA, 8.58 K/9 rate and 3.09 FIP. In his career on the road, Ryu has thrown 362.2 innings with a 3.35 ERA with a 7.57 K/9 rate and 3.56 FIP. His road numbers are by no means bad, but could missing out on the friendly play of Dodger Stadium mean a considerable jump in his season production. It’s unknown how Globe Life Field will play and while it no doubt will be more pitcher friendly that Globe Life Park, banking on Ryu to put up the same numbers in Arlington next year that he did in LA last year seems unlikely.
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All that information though isn’t lost on front offices around the league. Those red flags are exactly why he isn’t in line to make Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg money this offseason. MLB Trade Rumors, in their Top 50 FA Predictions has Ryu signing with Texas for 3 years, $54 million. That seems to be about where most predictors have Ryu signing contract wise. At $18 million AAV or thereabout, Ryu offers the definition of a high-risk, high-reward signing. His injury history points to him missing chunks of time over the life of the contract, but, he has the potential to produce at a near-ace level for about half of ace money.
Taking a chance on possible high-reward starters is a move Texas has made in each of the last two offseason with both paying off big time. Handing Mike Minor a 3-year, $28 million deal to be a starter after his injury history seemed risky and the Rangers have been rewarded with one of the best and most consistent starters in the game since the 2018 All-Star break. Texas opted for a similar move last year giving Lance Lynn a 3-year, $30 million contract after he had a rough 2018 season and was just a few years removed from missing the entire 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery. Lynn bounced back by throwing over 200 innings for Texas and sitting third in bWAR at 7.6, just behind rotation-mate, Mike Minor. Ryu is a bit higher risk than both those moves considering he’s older, will cost more, and has had more injury issues. However the reward is higher as well with Ryu’s recent production far ahead of what Minor and Lynn were doing at the time they signed.
This feels like a Texas Rangers move and a rotation that starts out with Minor, Lynn and Ryu has a chance to win a lot of games.