Dodgers sign South Korean pitcher Ryu to six-year deal

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers signed South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin to a $36 million, six-year deal on Sunday, bolstering their starting rotation for next year.

The team and Ryu (Ree-YOO He-YUN Jin) had until 2 p.m. PST to reach an agreement or else the left-hander would have returned home and the Dodgers would have been refunded the $25.7 million fee they paid for exclusive rights to negotiate with him.

Ryu becomes the first player to go directly from the Korea Baseball Organization to the U.S. big leagues, and he’s expected to join a strong rotation that includes 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang. The Dodgers also are trying to sign free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke.

Ryu’s agent, Scott Boras, said last month he was confident a deal could be struck with the Dodgers, whose new ownership has shown a willingness to spend money on new players.

“He has the ability to command the fastball from 90-95 mph and his changeup is a very elite weapon for him,” Boras said at the time. “And he has a quality slider and curveball.”

The 25-year-old pitcher has spent seven seasons with the Hanwha Eagles in the Korean league and was an All-Star each year. He was rookie of the year and MVP of the league at age 19, and is 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA in his career.

He won the league’s strikeout title five times. He earned a silver medal pitching on South Korea’s team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, appearing twice in a relief role at Dodger Stadium. He pitched on his country’s gold medal-winning team in the 2008 Olympics.

Last season, the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder was 9-9 with a 2.66 ERA in 27 games. He limited opponents to a .232 batting average and led the league with a career-high 210 strikeouts.

The Dodgers paid the third-highest posting fee by a big league team for the chance to negotiate a contract with a player from Asia.

The Texas Rangers paid Yu Darvish’s former team in Japan $51.7 million last year, and the Boston Red Sox paid Daisuke Matsuzaka’s team $51.1 million in 2006.

Ryu will follow in the footsteps of Chan Ho Park and Jae Weong Seo as South Korean pitchers for the Dodgers. The team also had first baseman Hee-Seop Choi.

“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,” Park said.

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