Heading into the 2021-22 offseason, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris have the unenviable task of filling in not just one or two, but four rotation place. Every Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto is a free agent. From the 2021 starter team, only Logan Webb are under the control of the club.

Indeed, most of it is done by the front office itself. A generally risk-averse unit, at least as far as signing free agents for lucrative multi-year commitments, the Giants signed Gausman, Wood and DeSclafani respectively on one-year contracts prior to the 2021 season. Continuing with this generally risk-averse approach this past offseason, filling rotation them for a combined $125MM paid to Carlos Rodon (two years, $44MM), DeSclafani (three years, $36MM), Wood (two years, $25MM) and Alex Cobb (two years, $20MM).

Obviously, investing $125 MM isn’t a no-risk proposition, but spreading that amount across four pitchers without committing over three years doesn’t really work without a net for a team that averaged $179 MM in salary from 2015-19, hitting $200.5. million in 2018, and has averaged a salary of $152.5 million over the last two seasons.

The Webb, Rodon, DeSclafani, Wood and Cobb quintet have a lot of potential to become a strong group. It also has a lot of potential to be an injury-hit unit that creates a lot of headaches for the front office. Rodon, DeSclafani, Wood and Cobb each come with a long history of injury. Depths outside the group are required, and the Giants don’t have them under the upper age.

What followed was a series of plausible additions. Matthew Boyd signed a one-year contract worth $5.2MM, as the Giants hope the long-handed Tiger will return from flexor surgery in mid-June. Former Royals righty Jakob Junis put pen to paper on a one-year, $1.75 million contract after not being tendered by Kansas City. Carlos Martinezformer All-Star with the Cardinals, signed a minor league contract.

Of all the names in the group, Junis is probably the most anonymous. A 29-year-old right-winger and former 29th round player, he looked to be part of a player development success story for the Royals during his first two seasons before exploding in his final three years with Kansas City. From 2017-18, Junis gave the Royals 275 1/3 inning ball 4.35 ERA with a strikeout rate just below the league average, a strong running pace, and slightly below average ground-ball tendencies. It’s not a stellar caliber profile by any means, but ask any scout in the world and they’ll be thrilled at the idea of ​​finding a decent fourth or fifth starter in the 29th round of the draft.

The 2019-21 season, however, didn’t go the way Junis or the Royals had hoped. Although he made what is still his career high of 31 starts in 2019, his ERA shot up to 5.24 as his walking speed picked up and he started to allow an increase in the number of hard contacts. Things got worse in 2020, and in June 2021, Junis found herself picking Triple-A for the first time since 2017. Between that and Junis’ posted 5.36 ERA from 2019-21, it’s no surprise that the Royals chose not to. offered him a contract, instead of putting him in the free agent market.

Junis’ one-year deal with the Giants seemed like a plausible deep pick-up from an experienced arm with a year of minor league options remaining, but it proved to be much more than that. In 17 games for San Francisco, 14 of which started, Junis carried a 4.04 ERA with a strikeout rate of 20.9% and an incredible 4.7% running rate. Fielding-independent metrics like FIP (3.83), SIERA (3.72) and xERA (3.85) all feel he is slightly better than that. For most of the year, he wore an ERA in the mid or low 3.00s, though a recent pair of six-run clunkers have improved his ERA slightly.

Even with his recent spats, Junis is much more than just a temporary substitute in the rotation. He only averages about five innings per start – more or less in line with the league average at the moment – and has held opponents to three or less runs in his 13 appearances this season.

Giant has changed Junis’ pitch selection and is doing it to good effect; he threw his sliders as high as 51.9% throughout his career and made just .210/.255/.359 in the 192 plate appearances that ended in that throw. He also effectively undoes four of his stitches and cutters in favor of the ballast he throws with a 30.6% clip, and while the throw is still hitting hard, the opponent does far less damage to the throw than either of the previous two fastballs. iterations that Junis uses at a much higher clip.

Junis will probably give the Giants anywhere from a win to two wins over substitutes this year—he’s at 1.6 bWAR and 0.9 fWAR at the moment—which is a solid return on their own minimal investment. But the Giants will also retain Junis’ rights until the 2023 season, as he is still eligible for arbitration and will finish the year with over five years of service. He’ll get a raise this year, but jumping into the $3MM range for a serviceable fourth starter is still a bargain.

The Giants already have four starters under contract in 2023 – Webb, Wood, Cobb and DeSclafani – but could lose Carlos Rodon to free agent if he rejects his player options (which is key, as long as he stays healthy). They’re not going to just replace Rodon with Junis and call it a day, so it’s likely they’ll add an impact starter and go into 2023 with Junis as the sixth or even seventh starter. That would land him in the bullpen early in the season, likely in a lengthy assist role, but given DeSclafani, Wood and Cobb’s injury history, there should be a round available for him next year.

Junis’ pickup is definitely not the masterstroke that will change the course of the franchise for years to come, but he’s quietly valuable to a Giants club that has had his share of throwing injuries—and he’ll continue to pay dividends on their investment into the 2023 season. right for the Giants this year, but their ability to rehabilitate and, in some cases, reinvent the pitcher remains quite strong.

By Blanca

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