South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, realizing his lifelong dream of playing in the major leagues.
The deal was signed only a minute before the 2 p.m. deadline on Sunday. If a deal had not been reached, Ryu would have had to return to his team, the Hanhwa Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization. The agreement also reportedly includes various performance bonuses that can expand the value of the contract up to $42 million.
Ryu is also the first Korean ballplayer to make the leap straight from the KBO to the majors.
“We are excited to welcome Hyun-jin Ryu to Los Angeles and the United States,” the Dodgers’ general manager Ned Colletti said 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.”
The 6-foot-1 Ryu held opponents to a .232 batting average last season and also led the Korean league with a career-high 210 strikeouts.
Ryu becomes the fourth Korean to play for the Dodgers, following Chan Ho Park, Jae Weong Seo and Hee-seop Choi.
Ryu played his last season at Hanhwa alongside Park, his childhood idol who was once a national hero back home during his best years with the Dodgers. Park notched 80 wins in his eight seasons with the Dodgers in the late 1990s and early 2000s en route to winning 124 games in the majors, which still remains a record for Asian pitchers.
“Congratulations to the Dodgers and Ryu on this great signing,” Park said in a statement. “I’m excited to see him carry on the tradition of great international pitchers in Dodger blue and have Ryu represent Korean baseball in the United States.”
Ryu is expected to be the Dodgers’ third starter in the rotation behind Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.