Can the Toronto Blue Jays and Ryu Hyun-jin (36) continue to work together?
Ryu Hyun-jin’s four-year, $80 million free agent contract with Toronto in 2020 ended at the end of this season. Ryu Hyun-jin, who underwent elbow ligament joint surgery (Tommy John surgery) in June of last year, returned in good health this year after a long tunnel of rehabilitation. He recorded 3 wins, 3 losses, and an ERA of 3.46. Although his hiatus was long, he showed off his record and showed off his health. Due to his considerable age, the decline in his speed was evident, but Ryu Hyun-jin defended the mound in Toronto by leveraging his strengths, precise control and ball combination.
Ryu Hyun-jin, whose contract has expired, appears on the free agent market. Despite his injury and poor performance at the end of the season, interest in Ryu Hyun-jin from local media in the United States and Canada continues. Canadian media ‘Toronto Star’ said, “Toronto, which has been eliminated from the postseason wild card series three times in the past four years, will face a period of great change in the off-season.” He added, “Toronto will have seven internal free agents, and with them, “If the contract is not renewed, who will be the replacement?” he said, conveying Toronto’s current situation.
If Toronto does not sign a free agent contract with Ryu Hyun-jin, among internal resources, Alec Manoa is a strong candidate to take Ryu Hyun-jin’s vacancy. Manoa, who joined Toronto as the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2019 rookie draft, made his major league debut in 2021 after a maturing period. He appeared in all 20 games as a starting pitcher and successfully made a soft landing in the big leagues, recording 9 wins, 2 losses, and an ERA of 3.22 in 111⅔ innings. He is well known as ‘Wishing for Ryu Hyun-jin’ as he followed Ryu Hyun-jin during his rookie days.
In 2022, it showed further improvement. Manoa played 196⅔ innings in 31 games and recorded 16 wins, 7 losses, and an ERA of 2.24. His second year jinx was nowhere to be seen. Manoa was also nominated for the Cy Young Award, given to the best pitcher. It is a valuable achievement achieved two years after entering the big league. There were high expectations that if he continued his growth, he would go beyond Toronto and become a leading pitcher in the major leagues.
However, in 2023, Manoa suffered from a slump. He had 3 wins, 9 losses, and an ERA of 5.87 in 19 games and 87⅓ innings. Although he suffered the humiliation of being demoted to the minor league, Manoa was never able to escape the ups and downs. In the end, with Ryu Hyun-jin’s return, Manoa was pushed into the starting rotation.
The ‘Toronto Star’ said, “An internal option is Manoa. Manoa played for Triple-A Buffalo for the last two months of the season. If Manoa recovers to his form in 2022, he could easily take Ryu Hyun-jin’s place.” It was ranked first. If Manoa fails to rebound, promising pitchers such as Bowden Francis, Nate Pearson, and Ricky Tidman are expected to be given the opportunity to become the fifth starter.
Toronto may turn its attention to outside free agents. Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies, Blake Snell of the San Diego Padres, and Sonny Gray of the Minnesota Twins are mentioned.
Toronto is expected to be the busiest team in the transfer market. Excluding Hyun-jin Ryu, fielders such as Matt Chapman, Brandon Belt, Kevin Kiermaier, and Whit Merrifield, and pitchers such as Chad Green and Jordan Hicks also qualify as free agents.
Toronto general manager Ross Atkins said in an interview with local media that he intends to continue working with Ryu Hyun-jin, saying, “Alec Manoa is also available, but Ryu Hyun-jin could be an alternative.” With Ryu Hyun-jin also expressing his intention to remain in the Major League, attention is being paid to whether he will be able to wear a Toronto uniform next year.