Speaking to reporters before watching Game 5 of the Korean Series between the LG Twins and KT Wiz at Jamsil Stadium on April 13 (KST), Ryu said, “I have to listen to the clubs. I don’t think I’ll know until mid-December after the Winter Meetings.”
He doesn’t even have a direction for his future. Major League Baseball’s free-agent market peaks around the Winter Meetings. This year’s Major League Baseball Winter Meetings will be held Dec. 5-7 in Nashville, Tennessee, and the signing frenzy will follow shortly thereafter.굿모닝토토
On December 12, ESPN reported, “Ohtani’s free agency saga is unlikely to last long. Numerous general managers have said it could be concluded before the Winter Meetings end next month. This means that the general managers are expecting Shohei Ohtani to decide his future sooner than expected.
Once big-name free agents like Ohtani decide where they want to go, the second- and third-tier free agents will start looking for teams, and the fourth- and fifth-tier free agents will fill the remaining spots, which is the general flow of the market until spring training early next year. Hyun-jin Ryu’s mid-December timeframe for Tier 2 and below free agents is just that, a timeframe.
His agent, Scott Boras, attended the Major League Baseball General Managers’ meetings last week and said, “A lot of major league teams have reached out and shown a lot of interest in Ryu. Ryu will pitch in the major leagues next year. He’s not going back to Korea.” This is nothing more than a confidence to wait for a satisfactory contract.
There are varying degrees of agreement on Ryu’s market value, but most local experts put it at $10 million a year or more, plus incentives. New York Post columnist John Heyman once wrote that Ryu could earn a major league contract with a solid finish to the season, and introduced his predictions as “Expert 1: $13 million per year, Expert 2: $10 million per year plus incentives, and me: $12 million per year.
In an article titled “What type of pitchers are the Nationals targeting this winter?”, MASN, a local media outlet that focuses on the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, reported on Thursday that the Nats could sign Frankie Montas, Luis Severino, Kyle Gibson, Clayton Kershaw, Lance Lynn, Wade Miley, James Paxton, Hyun-jin Ryu, and former KBO player Eric Peddy to one-year deals or bring them to spring training on minor league contracts.
“Blake Snell, Aaron Nola, and Jordan Montgomery are aces who could get six-plus years and $150 million, while Sonny Gray, Eduardo Rodriguez, Lucas Giolito, and Genta Maeda are mid-level starters who could get two to four years and $30 to $90 million,” MASN noted.
“Mike Clevinger, Michael Lorenzen, Sean Manilla, etc. are projected to be two-year deals,” and then the rest of the starting pitchers, including Ryu, are categorized as the lowest tier. It’s notable that not only Ryu but also Kershaw is included.
A one-year deal is one thing, but a minor league contract seems like a far cry for Ryu. Still, the fact that the outlet cites a minor league deal as a “possibility” is likely due to his history of surgery and injury. However, Ryu made his return in early August and pitched in 11 games, going 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 52 innings pitched. He’s not in the mood for a minor league deal.
Minor league contracts are for veterans in their mid-to-late 30s or older who either had few major league appearances the previous season or are coming off a major injury. Ryu could be in that position at some point, as many players receive spring training invitations after signing minor league deals. Chan Ho Park, for example, was invited to spring training on a minor league deal when he returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 and earned a spot on the major league roster.
Now comes the point in the free agent market where the drip-drip-drip of contacts ends and negotiations begin in earnest. The deadline for free agents to accept qualifying offers (QOs) is April 15.
The Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and Detroit Tigers are the most likely destinations for Ryu, according to local media. This means that there is some demand.