Blue Jays left-handed Hyun Jin Ryu will undergo elbow surgery, general manager Ross Atkins told reporters (including Scott Mitchell of TSN Sports). It’s not yet clear if Ryu will need full reconstructive Tommy John surgery or a partial repair – it’s not uncommon for the extent of the ligament damage to be unclear until the surgeon has actually started the proceedings – but he will miss the rest of the 2022 season either way.
The former All-Star has been on the disabled list for two weeks after being diagnosed with a sprained forearm and swollen elbow. It was his second arm-related stint this season, as he also missed a few weeks between April and May with forearm inflammation. This stay will unfortunately last much longer than the first, because Ryu will not be able to avoid going under the knife this time around.
Ryu has faced arm issues in the past, missing most of the 2015-16 seasons while a member of the Dodgers. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in May 2015, the injury costing him the entire season. He battled tendonitis in his elbow the following year, making only one MLB start before being arrested. Ryu returned to play in 25 games in 2017, however, and while he’s had a handful of stints in IL in the years since then, he’s mostly avoided any arm issues until recently.
After a 2019 campaign in which Ryu threw 182 2/3 ERA 2.32 innings, the Jays signed him to a four-year, $80 million free agent deal. Ryu has been brilliant in the first season of this contract, taking all 12 rounds through the rotation during the shortened campaign and posting a 2.69 ERA. His results took quite a noticeable setback last year, as he managed a mark of 4.37 in 169 frames. Ryu remained healthy aside from a minor neck problem in September, but he looked more like a sleeve-eater throwing strikes than a top-of-the-rotation force.
The 35-year-old never seemed to feel comfortable this season, possibly due to his battles with forearm discomfort. He worked 27 innings, pitching to a 5.67 ERA with a 14.2 percent personal strikeout rate. Ryu also posted the worst swing hitting mark of his career (7.6%), and the UCL injury will cut short his season after just six starts.
A specific timeline for his recovery won’t be known until after he’s gone under the knife, but it’s possible he’s already thrown his last pitch in a Toronto uniform. The South Korean pitcher owes the balance of his $20 million salary this season and is under contract for $20 million next year, the final season of his contract. If he were to undergo full reconstructive surgery, he may miss the entire 2023 campaign.
In the shorter term, the winning Blue Jays will have to move forward with their rotation alternatives. It’s still a quality group, with an offseason signatory Kevin Gausman and sophomore star Alek Manoah posting excellent figures. Jose Berrios struggled but is unlikely to lose its rotation spot given its track record, while Toronto signed the enigmatic Yusei Kikuchi to a three-year contract over the winter. Swingman Ross Striplin came in last place and performed well through seven starts, despite coming off of a tough time in 2020-21.
Atkins acknowledged that Ryu’s injury makes it more likely that they’ll bolster the group via trade this summer (via Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi). Unsurprisingly, he didn’t indicate whether they would be looking for a stable type of back end or prioritizing a higher impact arm like Oakland’s. Frankie Montas or from Cincinnati Luis Castillo. Toronto should have the payroll flexibility and urgency to at least check out a wide range of possibilities. The Jays come into play Tuesday in possession of the American League’s No. 1 Wild Card spot, but eight games behind the Yankees in the AL East.