(LEAD) Nearing deal, KBO’s Eagles tender status check on free agent pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin

SEOUL, On the verge of reuniting with their former star pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin, the South Korean baseball club Hanwha Eagles have tendered a status check on the free agent hurler, sources familiar with the situation said Tuesday. Per the sources, the Eagles, through the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) office, formally asked Major League Baseball (MLB) for the status on Ryu. MLB confirmed Ryu's free agency through the KBO on Tuesday. Under an agreement between the KBO and MLB, any KBO club hoping to contact a player under contract with or reserve to a big league club must carry out a status check through the MLB Commissioner's Office. This appears to be one of the final steps for the Eagles to bring back Ryu after a dozen years apart. Rumors of the Eagles' reunion with Ryu first surfaced Monday. A senior Eagles official denied multiple South Korean reports that Ryu had already signed the deal Tuesday, but admitted the two sides remained engaged in "positive dialogue." "We still have a few things to sort out," the official added, declining to divulge further due to the sensitive nature of the contract talks. Ryu, 36, pitched for the Eagles from 2006 to 2012. He then took his talents to MLB by signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers after being posted by the Eagles. Ryu spent the past four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and became a free agent after his four-year, US$80 million contract expired at the end of last season. Because Ryu left the Eagles via posting, instead of free agency, the Eagles still retain rights to the pitcher. If Ryu were to return to the KBO, it would have to be with the Eagles. They would have to release his rights and make him a KBO free agent if Ryu wanted to go elsewhere in South Korea. The Eagles must take another administrative step to finalize their deal with Ryu. When Ryu left through the posting system, the Eagles placed him on the "voluntarily retired" list, a typical procedure for players leaving the KBO via posting. The Eagles must ask the KBO to reinstate Ryu before their deal can be made official. Ryu burst onto the KBO scene in 2006, winning both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. He captured the pitching Triple Crown by leading the league with 18 wins, 2.23 ERA and a rookie-record 204 strikeouts. In seven KBO seasons, Ryu went 98-52 with a 2.80 ERA in 190 appearances. Ryu compiled a 78-48 record with a 3.27 ERA in 186 outings in 10 major league seasons. Source: Yonhap News Agency