St. Louis Cardinals Rumor: Hyun-Jin Ryu anyone?

The St. Louis Cardinals are looking for starting pitching at this year’s Winter Meetings and have been connected to Hyun-Jin Ryu. Is this a good idea?

It is now the final day of this year’s Winter Meetings and without much surprise, the St. Louis Cardinals have yet to do anything substantial. By that, I truly mean that they haven’t done anything at all, which I’m sure you know. While other teams have made moves, the Cardinals have likely just been exploring options and frequently deals down the line are made based on conversations that start at the Meetings.

Unfortunately, we won’t know until more time goes by.

However, on this last day of the Winter Meetings, we have one solid Cardinals rumor.

My first thought was that this was super surprising, and not in a bad way.

This is surprising because Ryu is one of the only starting pitchers in the league who finished higher than Jack Flaherty did in Cy Young voting last year. If you didn’t know, Ryu has been pitching with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the past seven years and is now 32 years old.

Ryu has a particularly bad injury history and has only pitched above 150 innings three times in his seven years. When he has been healthy, he’s been good though. Especially in the past two years.

With a career 2.98 ERA, Ryu’s last two seasons have been his best, specifically 2019. In 2018, he had a sub 2.00 ERA in just 82 innings (15 starts) and then in 2019, he led the MLB with a 2.32 ERA over 182.2 innings. That output was good for a whopping ERA+ of 179 and a second-place finish in Cy Young voting. For reference, Jack Flaherty had an ERA+ of 155 in 2019.

While Flaherty was much better in the second half than Ryu, you can understand the caliber of pitcher that Ryu was in 2019.

The fact that the Cardinals are talking to Ryu is great and all but if I’m honest, I don’t think it’s the best idea. For one, Ryu is going to turn 33 during the 2020 season. How often do we complain about the Cardinals giving out big contracts to players on the wrong side of 30? Furthermore, Ryu has a huge injury history.

Lastly, Ryu’s value is about as high as you will ever see it. There’s not much more Ryu could’ve done to maximize his payday in a contract year than what he did in 2019. He’s not going to want a one year deal, and in all honesty, 2019 is probably the peak of what Ryu will ever do in his career.

With all that in mind, does it make sense to give Ryu a four-year deal? No. It’s a win-now mentality which is nice, and Flaherty/Ryu at the top of the rotation would look really good, but only if Ryu doesn’t decline too quickly with age, doesn’t get hurt, and plays anywhere near what he was in 2019.

You don’t want to pay top-of-the-rotation money to a pitcher who may just be a three or four in your rotation. I appreciate the aggressiveness, I really do, but I don’t think it’s a smart target with Ryu.

The Cardinals have also apparently been calling with lots of pitchers (the market that’s moving faster) including Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel would be a better bet in my opinion.

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The Cardinals may not make any deals at the Winter Meetings, but hopefully the conversations had this week lead to action down the line. We won’t know until it happens.

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