Eagles’ Ryu on MLB radar
By Kang Seung-woo
Whether Hanwha Eagles southpaw Ryu Hyun-jin will head to America next year is currently the biggest story in the Korea Baseball Organization.
With a number of scouts visiting Korea to watch his recent outings, the 25-year-old’s departure for the U.S. big leagues appears within reach. The seventh-year pro also wants to play in the majors.
According to KBO rules, a player who has completed nine years in the Korean league can become a free agent and one with seven seasons under his belt can sign with overseas teams with consent from his current team.
If the Daejeon-based club permits Ryu to pursue a career in Major League Baseball (MLB) via the posting system, teams will bid for him and the winner will be given a 30-day period of private contract negotiations with the posted player. However, if the Eagles reject the bid, they forfeit the money, a sort of transfer fee.
Ryu, who has recorded double-digit victories since his KBO debut in 2006, is 7-8 this season, but the fastballer has performed better than the win column suggests in 2012.
He leads the league in strikeouts with 175, 42 more than runner-up the Lotte Giants’ American hurler Shane Youman, while posting a fourth-best 2.87 ERA. In his seven seasons in the KBO, Ryu has a 96-51 record with a career ERA of 2.83.
He is seen as the nation’s top MLB prospect and has earned a good reputation from the scouts.
“Ryu has the combination of stuff and pitchability to thrive in the majors. Wei-yin Chen type with better stuff,” David P., a scout on Pacific Rim, said on his Twitter account. The Taiwanese left hander is 12-9 with a 4.06 ERA at the Baltimore Orioles this season.
Other scouts who have watched Ryu from the stands have told local media that he could be a mid-rotation starter in the majors.
A total of four Korean pitchers with KBO careers — Lee Sang-hoon, Lim Chang-yong, Jin Phil-joong and Choi Hyang-nam — have been posted to head to America, but due to low bids, only Choi signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for $101 (114,000 won) in 2009. Bids of $600,000 and $650,000 were made for Lee and Lim respectively in 1998 and 2002, while Jin, who found no suitor in February 2002, received an offer of $25,000 10 months later but they were all refused.
Despite Ryu’s strong desire to pitch in the majors, it remains to be seen if the Eagles will agree to grant his request with the club in a playoff drought dating back to 2007.
The Eagles, sitting at the foot of the standings five and a half games behind the seventh-ranked LG Twins as of Tuesday, saw their manager Han Dae-hwa quit last month for the poor results and will try to turn things around under new leadership next season.
However, it will be a tough decision for a new boss to let Korea’s best pitcher go.
“Are there any managers that would easily allow players like Ryu to leave their team,” said Kia Tigers manger Sun Dong-yeol.