AL East Offseason Breakdown: Toronto Blue Jays

Max Goodman

The 2020 regular season is on the horizon and while the Yankees have been one of the most active teams in baseball this offseason, the other four teams in the American League East have made moves of their own.

Let's take a moment to revisit and breakdown the transactions that will have the biggest impact on the Yankees this year, from each respective club in New York's division. 

We've already broken down the Tampa Bay Rays and their new Japanese outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. This time around, it's the Toronto Blue Jays...

North of the border, the Blue Jays have one of the most exciting young cores in all of baseball -- Toronto's three-headed monster of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio in their infield is poised to bombard AL East pitching for years to come. 

And yet, the fourth-place Jays still seemed years away from contention after their performance in 2019.

The Blue Jays won only 67 games last season -- the fifth-worst win total in all of baseball -- struggling on both sides of the ball. Not only did Toronto have the worst cumulative team batting average (.236) among all 30 big-league teams, but the club didn't have a single pitcher win more than six games (in addition to trading away Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Hudson).

Similar to the Yankees -- who have addressed the vast majority of their offseason questions -- the Blue Jays had a plan this winter. Although no major moves have been made to alter their offensive unit -- other than adding infielders Travis Shaw and Joe Panik via free agency -- Toronto's pitching staff received a major makeover this winter. 

The Blue Jays added veteran right-handers Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson, while signing Shun Yamaguchi, a 32-year-old hurler from Japan and the Yomiuri Giants. Further, Matt Shoemaker is set to return in 2020 after a left knee injury that kept him off the field since last April. 

By far the most impactful move Toronto has made this winter, however, was reeling in an ace-caliber arm to lead the staff in 2020 and beyond.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, who finished second in the National League Cy Young Award race this past year, elected to take his talents north of the border in December on a four-year $80 million pact. 

For Ryu, 32, this past season was unquestionably the best performance of his six-year big-league career (all six seasons spent with the Los Angeles Dodgers). 

The left-hander -- born in Incheon, South Korea -- went 14-5 in 29 starts. He finished the season with the lowest ERA (2.32) among all qualified starters in all of Major League Baseball. Had Jacob deGrom not had a spectacular season of his own, Ryu was a shoe in for Cy Young -- the left-hander ended up receiving just one first-place vote while the Mets' ace secured the other 29.

His dominance in the first half of the season earned him a spot as the starting pitcher for the National League in the All-Star Game -- his first appearance as an All-Star in his career. Ryu's 6.79 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.01 WHIP were elite, each ranked in the NL's top three -- his 1.2 walk-per-nine-innings ratio was the best in all of baseball. 

So, how will Ryu fare in the American League? And more importantly, how does he stack up with the Bronx Bombers?

It's a small sample size -- as he's only faced AL opponents in a total of 15 interleague starts -- but Ryu has a 3.84 ERA against teams in his new league. Match that up against his career 2.98 ERA (across 125 starts and 740.1 innings pitched) and it's fair to say he's had success in this league in the past. Against the Yankees, however, it's another story.

Ryu has faced New York twice in his career, losing both decisions. In 10.1 total innings pitched against hitters in pinstripes, he's surrendered 10 earned runs (good for an 8.71 ERA) on 14 hits and four home runs. Again, a small sample size but certainly worth noting. 

Kicking off Players' Weekend in 2019 -- on a Friday night in Los Angeles with the Yankees in town -- Ryu struggled. He served up three long balls, including a Didi Gregorius grand slam, in a nine-hit, seven-run onslaught by the Yankees' offense. Then again, in just 4.1 innings, Ryu had seven strike outs, fooling New York's hitters with his fastball in the low-90s and devastating breaking ball. 

Also worth considering, as the AL East prepares for a new foe to toe the rubber: Ryu has had trouble pitching in domes over the course of his career. In five starts in stadiums that have domes, the left-hander's ERA is 6.21 -- with a retractable roof, his ERA dips a tad (4.84) but still sits almost two runs higher than his career ERA overall. With the Jays playing 82 games in the Rogers Centre, and the Rays' Tropicana Field in the division as well, keep an eye on how Ryu performs when pitching out of his comfort zone.

In one game at Yankee Stadium in Ryu's career -- a start in 2013 -- the southpaw lost but didn't pitch too poorly. Over six innings of work, Ryu allowed just three runs to score while surrendering merely five base hits. It'll be interesting to watch how he performs against the Yankees' high-powered offense in the Bronx in 2020. 

New York won't have to wait long before getting a crack at the Jays' No. 99 -- Toronto will travel to Yankee Stadium for the Bombers' first home series of the season (from April 2-5).

Could Yankee fans be treated to a Ryu versus Cole pitchers' duel? Check out Inside The Pinstripes' analysis of the notable dates and games on the 2020 regular season schedule for new ace Gerrit Cole by clicking right here.

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