For the second time in his career, Major League Baseball (MLB)캡틴토토 free agent Ryu Hyun-jin (36) could return to the Toronto Blue Jays.
“Toronto could bring back free agents pending a decision,” Canadian outlet Sportsnet reported on Monday (Aug. 8), citing a press conference with Toronto general manager Ross Atkins.
The Jays recently made the postseason as the second American League wild card, but were eliminated by the Minnesota Twins in a best-of-seven series, 0-2. Atkins’ and Toronto manager John Schneider’s futures seemed unclear after the shutout losses for the second straight year, but his retention has led to talk of a 2024 rebuild.
Ryu, along with third baseman Matt Chapman (30), first baseman Brandon Belt (35), and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (33), was one of four Toronto free agents to become unrestricted free agents after this season. Initially, it seemed likely that the Jays would not sign any of those four.
That’s why Chapman, while mentioning the possibility of returning to Toronto, kept his options open by talking about the free agent market after the signing of Shohei Ohtani (29). Kiermeyer said he would wait for a team to show interest in him, while Belt said he would consider retirement. Ryu Hyun-jin was also waiting for free agency, saying he prioritized staying in the major leagues.
But things have changed. “We’re going to miss Chapman, Belt, and Kiermaier,” Atkins said. We’re going to try to fill those gaps, both on and off the field,” Atkins said, adding, “Most of our pitching staff will be back, except for Hyun-jin Ryu. We have Alec Manoa, but Ryu Hyun-jin can be an option for us.”
“Based on this press conference, the three players mentioned (Chapman, Belt, and Kiermeyer) are unlikely to return to Toronto,” wrote DailyHive, “Chapman is likely to command a large salary in free agency, and Belt has been very open about the fact that he may retire. Kiermaier has expressed a desire to play on a natural grass field rather than artificial turf, making a return unlikely.”
It’s not out of the question that Toronto is considering Ryu as a starting option. While the long-term trio of Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, and Chris Bassitt have solidified the starting rotation, there is uncertainty behind them. Yusei Kikuchi hasn’t been reliable enough as a starter to be considered a bullpen and bulk guy this postseason, and the younger pitchers, including Manoa, don’t have the experience and track record to be trusted with a full season. For a team looking to make a run at the postseason again next year with a modest outside acquisition, it might be better to stick with what they already know.
If Ryu wants to stay in the majors, he’ll want a multi-year deal that makes sense given that he’s effectively a free agent. For him, Toronto could be a great opportunity to make up for a disappointing four years. When he signed in 2020, he received four years and $80 million, the most for a pitching free agent in Toronto franchise history. After finishing third in the American League Cy Young Award in his first year and leading the team to the postseason for the first time in four years, the ace was heralded as the start of a new era for Toronto. However, injuries and inconsistency plagued his career, and he ultimately finished with a 24-15 record and 3.97 ERA in 60 games over four seasons.