Dodgers introduce Korean left-hander Ryu
Pitcher signed six-year, $36 million contract with Los Angeles on Sunday
LOS ANGELES -- The weekend agreements with Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu should run the Dodgers' payroll for 2013 to $225 million.
But partner Magic Johnson and general manager Ned Colletti, speaking at Monday's introductory news conference for Ryu, said the club is just fulfilling promises to fans.
"We told everybody we'd spend money to improve the team and we have, but we've done it in a disciplined way," said Johnson. "We're not just spending crazy just to do it. We do it to help the team. We feel really good about every guy we've brought in. We're doing just what we said we were going to do.
"And guess who's excited -- Dodgers fans. It's good that the Dodgers' organization will go after free agents again, but do it in a disciplined way. Not a crazy way, do it just right."
Colletti was asked if the Dodgers still had money left over for a Clayton Kershaw extension.
"I believe so," he said. "As we get through the next few weeks, we'll look into that."
Johnson praised Colletti for delivering on management's offseason goal of upgrading the starting rotation, while Colletti said the flurry of signings is out of necessity but, hopefully, not a permanent trend.
"We're not going to be doing this forever," Colletti said of new owner Guggenheim Baseball Management's spending spree, which included picking up $300 million in contract obligations with summer trades. "Part of what we've done is catch up."
After years of neglect, the Dodgers have taken on payroll and added marquee players for today while re-establishing their presence internationally by adding scouts, lavishing $42 million on Cuban Yasiel Puig and now committing nearly $62 million on Ryu.
At Monday's event, packed with Asian media, Ryu reiterated his goals of double-digit wins, an ERA in the 2's and, eventually, to surpass former Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park's record of 124 Major League wins as the most for a Korean.
The Dodgers will happily take all of that in return for the six-year, $36 million contract they've given him. Ryu has an opt-out clause after five years. He can be traded, but he can't be sent to the Minor Leagues without his approval, a compromise for a 25-year-old left-hander who convinced Dodgers scouts he can make the adjustment from the Korean Baseball League to the Major Leagues off his step-up outings in the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics.
"He's built similar to David Wells," said new vice president of international scouting Bob Engle. "He definitely could come in and be a contributor to a Major League club immediately. He can reach back for just a little bit extra. He has real good mound presence. He has command of his pitches and of himself. He's an accomplished, polished pitcher."
Ryu's signing will be followed with the official confirmation of Greinke's record six-year, $147 million deal, the pair of additions giving the Dodgers eight starters. Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett join Greinke and Ryu in the rotation, while Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly become depth/excess/tradeable.
"Better to have more than less," said Colletti, who will be looking to deal for a fourth outfielder, left-handed reliever and/or backup corner infielder. "We set out to improve the depth and pitching and the caliber. I'm pleased with what we've been able to accomplish. Ryu is a big add for us."
Although negotiations with Ryu came down to Sunday's deadline, that's what the Dodgers expected after having posted a $25.7 million fee for the exclusive negotiating rights to the seven-time All-Star.
"We had more background on him than we typically have because of our scouting," said Colletti. "We knew he wanted to play in the Major Leagues. He was thrilled that the team was the Dodgers. We felt he didn't want to go back to Korea. We had that in the back of our mind that this was where he wanted to be and should be."
Indeed, as Park often told Ryu, the large Korean community in Los Angeles will make his transition easier than in any other North American city. Park was signed in 1994 as the first Korean to be a big leaguer. Ryu will be the first Korean Baseball League veteran to make the jump.
The Dodgers also picked Park's brain on Ryu. Park told the Dodgers Ryu was youthful, but had a veteran's feel for pitching.
The intro had its lighter side. Johnson, for example, issued a simple solution to any language barrier the Korean might encounter.
"Just tell him to throw strikes and the communication will be fine," Johnson said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.