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(3rd LD) S. Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin signs multi-year deal with LA Dodgers

All Headlines 15:42 December 10, 2012

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 10-13)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean All-Star pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin has signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in Major League Baseball (MLB) in a dramatic transaction just before the league-mandated deadline, MLB's official Web site said Monday, Korean time.

MLB.com said Ryu has signed a six-year deal worth US$36 million. Earlier in the day, the Los Angeles Times said the Dodgers "expect him to be part of the rotation next season." CBSSports.com also reported that Ryu's contract includes a signing bonus of $5 million.

According to the sports news Web site, Ryu has an opt out clause after five seasons and can make an extra $1 million per year based on innings pitched.

Ryu and the Dodgers had a 30-day window to sign a deal after the LA-based club earned the exclusive negotiating rights to Ryu in November, and the deadline fell at 7 a.m. Monday, Korean time, or 2 p.m. Pacific Standard Time Sunday in Los Angeles. The Dodgers submitted a bid of $25.7 million in a league-wide silent auction, as part of the player posting process. It was the fourth highest bid by a major league club for a foreign player.

The negotiation period began after Ryu's South Korean club, the Hanwha Eagles of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), accepted the Dodgers' bid.

With this signing, the Eagles will take the $25.7 million bid as a transfer fee for Ryu.

Had Ryu failed to sign a deal by the deadline, he would have been forced to return to the Eagles for 2013 and wouldn't have been eligible for posting until November next year. The Dodgers, in that case, would have retrieved their bid money.

Ryu, who completed his seventh KBO season in 2012, was posted by the Eagles in November. When he is added to the major league roster, Ryu will become the first South Korean to jump directly from the KBO to the majors.

The Dodgers have been home to three South Korean players before Ryu, including right-hander Park Chan-ho, who became the first Korean to play in the majors in 1994.

"We are excited to welcome (Ryu) to Los Angeles and the United States, continuing the tradition of Korean pitchers with the Dodger organization," said the Dodgers' general manager Ned Colletti in a statement. "The Dodgers continue to show the commitment to signing players from Asia and other international areas where baseball is played at the highest levels. We are looking forward to watching Ryu pitch for the franchise."

Ryu will wear No. 99, the same numeral that he's had throughout his KBO career. The Dodgers and Ryu have both posted pictures of the pitcher in his LA uniform on their Twitter accounts. The number was last worn on a Dodger uniform by outfielder Manny Ramirez in 2010.

After the signing was announced, the Eagles issued a statement congratulating their former star.

"We hope Ryu, as a major league player, can bring a lot of joy and hope to the Korean people from the U.S.," the KBO team said. "We also hope he can be an inspiration for younger players as they chase their own dreams."

Before Ryu, some Japanese stars have joined the majors via posting, and they have signed for packages similar to their posting fees. Ahead of the 2007 season, the Boston Red Sox signed right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year deal worth $52 million, after posting $51 million. Last year, Yu Darvish, also a right-hander, drew a bid of $51.7 million from the Texas Rangers and reached a six-year deal for $60 million.

Ryu's contract is the third largest in posting behind those two pitchers.

The contract talks between the Dodgers and Ryu appeared to have hit a snag last week, with both sides playing hard ball through the local media. The Dodgers had said Ryu once rejected their offer of a long-term contract. The player's agent, Scott Boras, pressured the Dodgers that Ryu could play in Japan in 2013 and test free agency later without going through posting. Boras, who's built a reputation as a hard-nosed agent, had also argued that Ryu deserved to be paid like a No. 3 major league starter and cited Matsuzaka as an example.

Ryu will have to crack a deep Dodgers rotation that includes the 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw and former 20-game winner Josh Beckett. The Dodgers are reportedly closing in on signing yet another former Cy Young winner, right-hander Zack Greinke, and have other established big league starters such as Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly.

Ryu has been one of the KBO's most dominant starters since his sensational debut in 2006, when he became the first player to win both the MVP and the Rookie of the Year honors in the same season. He was 18-6 with a 2.23 ERA and a rookie-record 204 strikeouts.

This year, as the Eagles staggered to the KBO's worst record, Ryu went 9-9 with a 2.66 ERA and a league-leading 210 strikeouts in 182 2/3 innings.

In his seven KBO seasons, Ryu went 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA and 1,238 strikeouts in 1,269 innings.

The thick-bodied lefty, listed at 187 centimeters and 98 kilograms, has averaged more than 181 innings per season and led the league in strikeouts five times.

He can reach up to 150 kilometers per hour (93 miles per hour) with his fastball, and can also throw a changeup and slider as his out pitches.

Ryu drew international attention by helping South Korea win the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and finish runner-up behind Japan at the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC).

With this signing, Ryu is expected to miss the 2013 WBC in March next year, as he takes part in the Dodgers' spring training and tries to get ready for his first big league season.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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