The “Korean Monster” Ryu Hyun-jin (36, Toronto Blue Jays) is close to returning to the big leagues after a year away. The team’s trade deadline strategy is expected to be revised.
“If Ryu returns to the starting rotation, Toronto will focus on other needs ahead of the Aug. 1 trade deadline, namely offense,” Canadian media outlet CP24 quoted Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins as saying on Tuesday.
Since undergoing Tommy John surgery (elbow ligament reconstruction) in June of last year, Ryu has been well-received by club officials as he’s lost weight and gotten into better shape. He began pitching out of the bullpen in late May, then took turns pitching in live and simulated games. He started pitching in the Rookie League on the fifth, and has been pitching since then. 안전놀이터
With his innings increasing with each outing, Ryu is taking it in stride. In his most recent outing, a Triple-A game on June 16, he threw 66 pitches in five innings, preparing to take on a minimal role as a starter. According to Sportsnet, another Canadian outlet, Ryu is aiming to go five or six innings and throw around 80 pitches in his Triple-A start on April 22. His return to the big leagues is now really close.
After signing a four-year, $80 million free agent contract with Toronto in 2020, Ryu anchored the team’s starting rotation in his first two seasons. In his first year, a 60-game shortened season, he went 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA and finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting, and he won 14 games in 2021. If he can stay healthy, he could be a huge boost to Toronto’s starting rotation.
The Jays have had solid performances from Jose Berrios (29), Kevin Gausman (32), and Chris Bassett (34) this season, while Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (32) has also exceeded expectations. However, Alex Manoa, 25, who finished third in the American League Cy Young Award last year, has struggled with a 6.18 ERA. “The obvious priority (at the July trade deadline) is to add starting pitching,” Atkins said in late June.
There was a catch. “You have to balance that with the situation with Ryu and Manoah,” Atkins said. If the two were unable to make it into the rotation, the team would be willing to make a trade for a starter. But with Ryu on the verge of a comeback, the Jays may be able to modify their strategy.
“If Ryu returns in time, Toronto will focus on bolstering its offense,” CP24 said. Toronto has a team OPS of 0.742 through 20 days, which is above the league average (0.724). There are no major holes in the lineup.
However, according to Sports Illustrated, Atkins “could consider adding a quality right-handed hitter”. In particular, the publication noted that Alejandro Kirk, who is the designated hitter against lefties, is hitting just .192 against left-handed pitching.
If Ryu and Manoa can return to form, along with the addition of right-handed hitting, the Jays could be in good shape for the playoffs. As of the 20th, Toronto is in third place in the American League East and in the second wild card spot with a .557 season winning percentage (54-43). If they keep up this pace, they could make the postseason for a second straight year.