Ryu Hyun-jin’s MLB status check is over… Can he go to 20 billion won in four years, and the final contract is expected on the 21st

Originally, Ryu Hyun-jin (37), who was expected to stay in the Major League, is close to signing a contract with Hanwha. Hanwha seems to be benefiting from the slow-paced free agent market in the Major League. Ryu has already decided to move to the KBO League. All the procedures are being resolved step by step, and only the final stamp is left. Ryu’s return to the KBO League is expected to be confirmed by Friday. A storm hits the KBO League once.

Hanwha, which closely watched Ryu’s market conditions, aggressively courted him and eventually changed its mind. Hanwha guaranteed Ryu the highest amount ever in the KBO league. The deal entails guaranteeing a total of 17 billion won worth of coverage for four years and providing plus alpha with incentives. The detailed coordination process was longer than expected, but chances are high that Ryu will return to the KBO league in the end.

As negotiations on Ryu’s status were concluded to some extent, Hanwha moved to a two-track strategy by asking the U.S. Major League Baseball Secretariat to check his status through the Korea Baseball Organization. The identification process is to check whether there are any problems with the contract, such as whether the player’s status is currently a free agent. U.S. Major League teams request identification in the same way when recruiting KBO League players. Hanwha’s request for a status check symbolizes that Ryu’s negotiations have come to an end, and it can be interpreted that he is confident at the same time.

Now, paperwork will be done arbitrarily, leaving only a request for dismantlement of his player status. Ryu advanced to the Major League through the posting system (closed competitive bidding) ahead of the 2013 season. At the time, the Hanwha Eagles had the right to hold the position in accordance with the posting regulations, and arbitrarily removed Ryu and elevated him to the status of a player. The KBO should make a final decision on lifting this shackle. The Hanwha Eagles requested the KBO to do so, and its approval is expected to drop on Monday. Industry insiders initially expected the Hanwha Eagles to make an official announcement on Tuesday, but the process has taken some time.

Hanwha has worked hard to recruit Ryu. His four-year, 80-million-dollar contract with Toronto ended last year ahead of the 2020 season. He became a free agent in the Major League. Initially, Ryu had his Major League contract in mind as a priority. So did what he said, and so did the confidence of Scott Boras, Ryu’s agent. “Ryu will throw in the Major League next year,” Boras told reporters after the Major League general manager’s meeting in November last year. Despite the injury, Boras predicted the overheating of the market by saying, “All the starting pitchers he can throw now are getting attention.”

Hanwha, which ranked ninth last year and narrowly escaped its lowest record for the third consecutive year, was not satisfied. Ahead of the opening of the new stadium in 2025, Ryu needed solid reinforcement, and there was no better candidate than Ryu, who had ace-class skills and box office storylines. Hanwha also met with Ryu early in the offseason and had a rough communication with him, and carefully watched Ryu’s Major League negotiations.

Ryu’s market has gone slower than expected. Initially, Boras Corporation aimed for a January contract and a contract just before spring training, going into a long-term game. By then, the starting lineup would disappear, and teams in a hurry to reinforce the starting lineup would suggest better conditions for Ryu. However, analysts say that Ryu’s calculations have been somewhat distorted as the Major League’s starting lineup market has been particularly slow this year. Although the offers were reportedly made by major league teams, some analysts say that Ryu might not have been able to secure a clear one-year contract offer that would have won his heart. Rather, he might have judged that now is the right time to return to Hanwha anyway.

Hanwha also reportedly measured the timing by looking at the Ryu Hyun-jin market, and already calculated the best treatment conditions that the team could afford and delivered them to Ryu. When the negotiation gap opened, he hurriedly entered the table and shook Ryu’s mind. As a result, he leaned toward the KBO League rather than the additional Major League under the negotiations with Ryu, and Ryu decided to return after ending his career in the Major League.

Now, it is virtually certain that Ryu will return. What matters is the amount of money. Ryu was an FA in the Major League, but he is not an FA in the KBO League. According to the posting system, he must return to the Hanwha Eagles when he returns to the KBO League, and he must fulfill four more years of registration to become an FA. Therefore, Hanwha plans to treat Ryu through a non-FA multi-year contract. The four-year guarantee of 17 billion won itself is the highest ever in the KBO league.

The previous record of No. 1 was 15.2 billion won (14.2 million U.S. dollars) for Yang Eui-ji, who signed a contract with Doosan ahead of the 2023 season. This was to break the record of Kim Kwang-hyun, who signed a four-year contract with SSG in 2022, after completing his two-year challenge in the Major League. It can be said that Kim was conscious of Lee Dae-ho’s four-year record of 15 billion won (14.6 million dollars), and Yang Eui-ji doubted Kim’s record. However, Ryu was on a different level. He already far exceeded the four-year guarantee of 17 billion won. Considering the current market conditions, the record seems to be hard to break for the time being.

Interest in this is the provision of incentives. In fact, the news that Ryu had agreed on the rough terms of his contract with the Hanwha Eagles has been widespread for four to five days already. However, rumors have been circulating around the KBO League camp that Ryu has yet to be announced due to the lack of negotiations on detailed terms. Initially, the Hanwha Eagles wrapped up its contract in advance and aimed to have Ryu join the team normally from the second camp in Okinawa. However, the fact that the negotiations, which seemed to end in just one or two days, have been extended a little bit seems to have something to do with the incentive clause.

On the spot, he said, “Hanwha’s personal training is loyalty. There was a posting money that she gave to Hanwha when she moved to the Major League. I will never treat Ryu regrettably,” which was reportedly reliable. Incentives are usually set at between 10-20% of the total amount. If Hanwha makes a strong bet on incentives, a contract worth nearly 20 billion won could be created. Attention is focusing on whether the four-year contract of 20 billion won, which seemed impossible in the KBO League, can be realized.

As a result, some say that Hanwha has decided to open its salary cap. Until now, Hanwha had relatively limited salary cap space. As of 2023, it had 2,895.38 million won (2,240 U.S. dollars) left. It could afford to remain behind Kiwoom in the KBO league. However, after signing a contract with An Chi-hong this year, the recruitment of Ryu Hyun-jin, who has an annual guaranteed amount of 4.25 billion won, makes it difficult to keep the salary cap in a normal way. Analysts say that it is not easy to cut the salary this year to an extreme extent and increase the amount of payments for the remaining three years considering the current situation at Hanwha. The team needs to think about players who will become FA players such as Noh Si-hwan. “Chances are high that they will choose to open the salary cap this year and keep the right to nominate next year rather than keeping the salary cap next year,” an official said.

It is also the return of the monster and the return of the king. After graduating from Dongsan High School, Ryu joined Hanwha Eagles after receiving the second nomination in the second round of the rookie draft in 2006, and has become the best pitcher in the league by banking on his stellar performance since his rookie season. In 2006, he pitched 201 ⅔ innings in 30 games since his debut season, and swept not only the Rookie of the Year award but also the Most Valuable Player award. It was the birth of a monster.

Before moving to the Major League, Ryu had been the ace of his team, sweeping various categories. He grabbed 17 wins in 2007 and 14 wins in 2008, and contributed decisively to the gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, earning not only promotion of national prestige but also military service benefits. Following his 13 wins in 2009, Ryu had a historic record of 16 wins, 4 losses and an ERA of 1.82 in 25 games in 2010, catching the eyes of scouts in the Major League.

After 11 wins in 2011 and 182 ⅔ innings in 27 games in 2012, Ryu garnered nine wins and nine losses with a 2.66 ERA, and completed seven years of registration to meet the posting requirements. Many people were skeptical because there was no direct transition from the KBO League to the Major League at the time, but Ryu’s talent was already recognized in the 고소득알바 Major League as well. With many Major League teams bidding, Ryu hit a record 25.737,737 dollars in posting money and started negotiations with the Los Angeles Dodgers first. After going through pain and suffering until the last minute, he completed personal negotiations for a total of 36 million dollars for six years and moved to the Major League.

Ryu has struck down many people’s skepticism since his debut season. He started his Major League career as the confident third starting pitcher of the Los Angeles Dodgers, succeeding Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the best pitchers of his time, and pitched 192 innings in 30 games in his debut season, successfully landing a spectacular performance with 14 wins and eight losses with an ERA of 3.00. He continued strides by winning 14 wins in 2014.

After overcoming many challenges including shoulder surgery, Ryu has played for 11 years in the Major League and 10 seasons, recording 78 wins, 48 losses and an ERA of 3.27. Notably, in 2019, he pitched 182 ⅔ innings in 29 games, recording 14 wins, 5 losses and an ERA of 2.32, ranking first in the National League’s ERA and second in the voting for the National League Cy Young Award. In 2020, he also ranked third in the voting for the American League Cy Young Award.

He underwent the second Tommy John Surgery meant to rebuild his elbow in June 2022, but returned to the Major League in August 2023 after painstaking rehabilitation and hard work. His elbow injury was not normal yet and his arm sense had become dull, raising expectations for 2024, posting three wins and three losses with an ERA of 3.46 in 11 games last year. His ball speed dropped slightly from the previous record, but he performed well thanks to his sophisticated ball control, various breaking balls and ability to manage games. He showed off his outstanding skills by mixing four-seam fastballs as well as cutters, changeups and curves.

He should open the lid on his performance in the KBO League, but many predict that he will not be able to easily touch Ryu’s ball because he has good ball control. Even Major League hitters did not easily predict the four pitches that can be taken out anytime, anywhere. It is expected to be a target of fear for KBO league hitters. As he is on full-fledged trajectory after elbow surgery, there is room for his speed to rise further, and expectations are growing that he will continue to play for the next four years and gauge the final period of his career.

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