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Dodgers continue spending binge, sign Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin

A day after agreeing with Zack Greinke on $147-million deal, Dodgers sign South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin for $36 million. Payroll is already over $220 million.

December 09, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

The Dodgers went on the kind of spending spree over the weekend that made the suddenly budget-conscious New York Yankees look like they were based in a second- or third-tier market.

A day after agreeing to pay free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke $147 million over the next six seasons, the Dodgers signed South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin to a six-year, $36-million contract.

Including the $25.7-million posting fee owed to Ryu's Korean league team, the Dodgers' two-day expenditures totaled an astounding $208.7 million.

The Dodgers' 2013 payroll, which already stands in excess of $220 million, could be the highest in the history of baseball. The team has taken on more than $600 million in salaries since it was purchased by Guggenheim Baseball Management last spring.

While Greinke undergoes a physical examination Monday to finalize his contract, Ryu will be introduced by the Dodgers at a news conference.

Greinke is expected to be introduced Tuesday.

Once Greinke's deal becomes official, the Dodgers will have eight starting pitchers under contract for next season: Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Ryu, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.

The Dodgers could trade Capuano or Harang this winter — or they could hold onto them as a hedge against some uncertainties. Billingsley is recovering from a season-ending elbow injury and Lilly from a shoulder operation.

Meanwhile, Ryu will be the first player ever to go directly from the Korean league to the major leagues.

But the Dodgers are confident he can be their No. 3 or 4 starter. His agent, Scott Boras, went so far as to say Ryu's transition to the majors could be easier than it would be for a pitcher from the Japanese league.

Of the Korean league, Boras said, "They have more power hitters. Pitching in Korea is a lot like pitching here."

Ryu, 25, was a seven-time All-Star and league most valuable player with the Hanwha Eagles. Over his career, he was 98-52 with a 2.80 earned-run average.

During a news conference at Boras' offices last month, Ryu said he had no doubt he could be effective in the major leagues.

"Obviously, there's pressure in all levels of baseball," Ryu said through an interpreter. "But from my experiences in Korea, I have no doubt I could succeed in the United States."

Listed by the Dodgers at 6 feet 1 and 215 pounds, Ryu is said to throw a low-90s fastball with an assortment of off-speed pitches.

Ryu pitched twice at Dodger Stadium in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, appearing in the semifinal and final as a reliever. South Korea was the runner-up in that tournament, won by Japan.

He almost didn't get the chance to return to Los Angeles, reaching agreement with the Dodgers with less than a minute remaining in their negotiating window, which closed at 2 p.m. PT Sunday. Had the two sides failed to strike a deal by then, Ryu would have returned to the Eagles and the Dodgers would have been refunded their posting fee.

Considering they paid $25.7 million for the right to negotiate with him, the Dodgers wanted Ryu under contract for as long as possible. Boras wanted his client to be able to test the free-agent market while still in the prime of his career.

They reached a compromise by including a clause in the contract that will allow Ryu to elect free agency after five seasons, provided he has pitched 750 innings.

Ryu can earn an additional $1 million a year in performance-based incentives. The Dodgers will provide him with a translator and promised him jersey No. 99, last worn by Manny Ramirez. Ryu wore No. 99 with the Eagles.

Ryu's contract does not include a no-trade clause. Greinke's doesn't, either.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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