Hyun-Jin Ryu is headed north of the border to a Toronto Blue Jays team in dire need of starting pitching.
One that was willing to pay for it, too.
Ryu and the Blue Jays agreed to an $80 million, four-year contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. The person spoke late Sunday night on condition of anonymity because the deal was pending a physical after Christmas and had not been announced.
Ryu was 14-5 with a major league-best 2.32 ERA for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He started for the National League in his first All-Star Game and finished second in Cy Young Award voting to New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom.
The 32-year-old left-hander from South Korea receives a $20 million salary each of the next four years, with no signing bonus. His deal raised agent Scott Boras’ total to more than a billion dollars in guaranteed contracts — $1,016,500,000 to be exact — for seven players eligible for free agency since the start of November, agreements extending as many as nine seasons.
Boras previously negotiated deals for pitchers Gerrit Cole ($324 million), Stephen Strasburg ($245 million), Dallas Keuchel ($55.5 million) and Tony Watson ($3 million); third baseman Anthony Rendon ($245 million) and infielder Mike Moustakas ($64 million).
Toronto is building around a promising young core of hitters, including three sons of former big league stars who broke into the majors last season: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. Looking to surround them with some proven pitching, the Blue Jays are set to add Ryu to the top of a revamped rotation that should also include newcomers Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson.
Roark signed a $24 million, two-year deal last week with Toronto, which finished fourth in the AL East at 67-95 last season. Anderson, also a right-hander, was acquired from Milwaukee last month.
The moves follow Toronto home attendance declining from nearly 3.4 million in 2016, when the Blue Jays lost in the AL Championship Series for the second straight year, to 1.75 million last season — the club’s lowest since 2010.
Pitching was certainly a problem: No starter won more than six games for the Blue Jays this year, and the rotation ranked 22nd out of 30 teams with a 5.25 ERA.
Ryu, who turns 33 in March, spent his first seven years in the majors with the Dodgers after coming over from South Korea and signing a $36 million, six-year contract before the 2013 season. He was effective the first two years but sat out the 2015 season and made only one appearance in 2016 due to left shoulder surgery and elbow tendinitis. He also missed time in 2017 with injuries to his left hip and foot.
Ryu re-emerged with a 1.97 ERA over 15 starts in 2018 and accepted a $17.9 million qualifying offer from Los Angeles for 2019. He threw 182 2/3 innings in 29 starts this year for the NL West champions.
Boras is also likely to land lucrative deals in free agency this winter for outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, and in salary arbitration for several stars — including 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts.
“One hundred and thirty-five people in Boras Corp. work very hard for players,” Boras said in a text message to The Associated Press. “Free agency is an achievement few players ever reach, and I am honoured to work for these talented players.”