Brewers to sign Jacob Junis

The Brewers are in agreement with free agent righty Jacob JonesESPN's Kelly McDaniel reports (X link). The deal, which is pending actual execution, is a one-year, $7 million guarantee for Wasserman's client, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports. Junis will receive a $4 million salary next season and a $3 million buyout on a mutual option in 2025. He is expected to open the year in Milwaukee's starting rotation.

Junis has hit the open market for the first time after making a strong bid on a quiet platform. The 31-year-old pitched 86 innings over 40 games as a multi-inning reliever for the Giants a year ago. He pitched a personal-low 3.87 ERA while striking out an above-average 26.2% of opposing hitters. This was the best mark of his career, and his swinging strike rate was 11.3%.

The slight increase in speed played a role in improving the swing and miss results. Junis averaged 93.7 mph on his sinker, which is higher than the 91-92 mph range his fastball has sat in throughout his career. He also added a check to his slider, which posted an 84.2 mph average after sitting in the 82-83 mph zone in previous years. Adding some speed to the slider was probably more important than the extra life of the fastball. Junis uses broken pitch at an unusual rate.

The slider has been his primary pitching in each of the past four seasons. He pushed it to new heights in 2023, turning into a ripper nearly 63% of the time. This did not come at the expense of the strong control he has shown throughout his career. He has walked fewer than 6% of opponents for the fourth time out of five MLB seasons with more than 40 innings pitched.

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As one might expect given his profile, Junis was most effective against same-handed hitters. Since the start of 2022, the right-handed hitter has a .254/.297/.414 line while striking out nearly a quarter of the time against him. The left-handed bat spread at a modest rate of 20.3% and hit a solid .290/.341/.494 over that stretch.

It's easier for a manager to navigate platoon issues when Junis is in a relief role, even if he works at it frequently in multiple roles. It could be more of a concern as a starter, although it wouldn't be surprising if skipper Pat Murphy tends to reduce his exposure to opposing lineups more than twice in an outing.

This is generally how Milwaukee looks to be approaching the 2024 cycle. They have moved on from their pair of common players. Brandon Woodruff He was not asked after it was revealed that he needed shoulder surgery Corbin Burns It was traded last week. That left the brew crew Freddy Peralta Like the unquestioned pitching staff, pitchers with varying degrees of injury or performance concerns follow.

Re-signed by Milwaukee Wade Miley And Colleen Rhea To be taken into account in the middle of the staff. They took a flyer on Joe RossWho missed most of last season after returning from Tommy John surgery in 2022. The southpaw is tough to throw at DL Hall He returned from Baltimore in Burns Returns. Aaron Ashby He's still trying to carve out a rotational role despite various injuries, including the shoulder procedure that wiped out his 23rd season. Outlook Robert Gasser, Jacob Misiorowski And Carlos Rodriguez Looming in the upper minors.

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This is unlikely to be the type of dominant rotation Milwaukee has had in recent seasons, even if there is a fair amount of intrigue with Junis, Ashby and the aforementioned group of young pitchers. There aren't many reliable sources for innings, which may force Murphy to rely heavily on his relief group.

The $4 million salary brings Milwaukee's salary projections to about $105 million, as calculated by List resources. This is well below last year's approximate level of $119 million. It is unclear whether ownership is willing to match last season's level of spending. If there is payroll space, the roster could benefit from an additional bench bat and perhaps another left-handed reliever to pair with him. Hobie Milner.

MLBTR ranked Junis as the No. 47 free agent this offseason, projecting a two-year, $15 million guarantee. He came in just short of that number on a one-year deal. He will look to prove himself as a starter before returning to free agency next winter before his age-32 season. A mutual option is essentially an accounting measure that allows the Brewers to pay $3 million out of escrow until the start of the next season. The mutual options are never exercised by both sides, so it is very likely that Junis will return to the market a year from now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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