Free agent pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin entertaining offer from ex-KBO club Eagles

SEOUL, Free agent South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin is entertaining an offer from his former Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) club Hanwha Eagles, while also weighing potential opportunities to remain in Major League Baseball (MLB), the South Korean team said Monday. Ryu hit the open market following the 2023 season with the Toronto Blue Jays, his fourth and final year with the team. The left-hander spent the previous seven years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a stint that came after a seven-year run with the Eagles from 2006 to 2012. Ryu missed the second half of the 2022 season and the first half of the 2023 campaign after undergoing and recovering from elbow surgery. He had a solid bounceback season in 2023 at age 36, going 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 11 starts covering 52 innings. A client of uber-agent Scott Boras, Ryu has been linked to multiple big league clubs this offseason but remains unsigned with spring training under way across the majors. Against this backdrop, an unconfirmed bit of rumor claimed Monday that the Eagles had offered Ryu a four-year contract worth up to 18 billion won (US$13.5 million), which would make him the highest-paid player in the KBO. It also said the Eagles could announce the signing as early as this week once the team's corporate owner, Hanwha Group, gives the green light. An official with the Eagles acknowledged that the team had been in touch with Ryu throughout the offseason over a possible reunion but declined to get into financial details of the club's offer. "Internally, we do have an outline of a deal," the official said. "Ryu is considering it. We understand he also has offers from major league teams. Nothing is finalized at this point, and we're waiting for him to make his decision." Later Monday, South Korean broadcaster KBS reported that Ryu had decided to ship luggage from his Toronto home back to his home country. The report, citing an unnamed source in the Korean community in Toronto, claimed Ryu's luggage will be moved to Vancouver first via train and then tra nsported to South Korea, a procedure that could take about two months. Because Ryu left the Eagles through the posting system, instead of free agency, the Eagles still retain rights to him. If Ryu were to return to the KBO, it would have to be with the Eagles, unless the team releases his rights and makes him free to sign with any other KBO team. Ryu has said on multiple occasions that he will finish his career as an Eagle. When he returned home from Toronto in October last year, Ryu said he remembered the pledge he'd made with Eagles fans that he would end his career there. "I haven't changed my mind on that front," Ryu said then. "I'll absolutely make that happen." Under an agreement between the KBO and MLB, any KBO club hoping to contact a player under contract with or reserve to a big league club must tender a status check through MLB Commissioner's Office. MLB then must respond within four business days, and the KBO must keep confidential the identity of any KBO club inquiring about the status of a specific player. Ryu burst onto the KBO scene in 2006, winning both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. He captured the pitching Triple Crown by leading the league with 18 wins, 2.23 ERA and a rookie-record 204 strikeouts. In his first season as a Dodger in 2013, Ryu went 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts and finished fourth in the National League (NL) Rookie of the Year voting. He missed the entire 2015 season with a shoulder injury and made just one appearance in 2016 due to elbow problems. Three years later, though, Ryu had his best MLB season, leading the majors with a 2.32 ERA and finishing second in the NL Cy Young Award voting. He parlayed that into a four-year, $80 million contract with the Blue Jays. At the time, it was the largest free agent contract given to a pitcher in Blue Jays history. Ryu was third in the American League Cy Young race in 2020, thanks to a 5-2 record and a 2.69 ERA in 12 starts in an abbreviated, 60-game season during the COVID-19 pandemic. He went through an up-and-do wn 2021 season and was limited to 17 games combined over the following two years. Source: Yonhap News Agency