With the 2021-22 off-season looming, Giants head Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris had the unenviable task of filling in not just one or two, but four rotation points. Whoever Kevin GussmanAnd the Anthony DisclavaniAnd the Alex Wood And the Johnny Quito They were free agents. Only among the junior team players in 2021 Logan Web It was under club control.
Sure enough, a lot of that was front office work. Risk aversion unit in general, at least in terms of free agents signing lucrative multi-year commitments, giants Gausman, Wood and DeSclafani all signed one-year contracts ahead of the 2021 season. They continued their overall risk aversion approach last season, resulting in to renew their rotation in exchange for 125 million dollars paid to Carlos Rodon (two years, $44 million), DeSclafani (three years, $36 million), Wood (two years, $25 million) and Alex Cobb (2 years, $20 million).
Obviously investing $125 million isn’t a risk-free proposition, but spreading that number across four pitchers without committing more than three years doesn’t exactly work without a network for a team whose average salaries were $179 million from 2015-19, which topped $200.5 million in 2018, and their average salary was $152.5 million over the past two seasons.
The quintet of Webb, Rodon, DeSclafani, Wood and Cobb had a lot of potential to be a strong group. It also had so much potential as a casualty-infested unit that caused a major headache for the front office. Rodon, DeSclafani, Wood and Cobb all came in with a long injury history. A depth beyond that group was needed, and the Giants lacked it in the Alawite Palaces.
What followed was a series of reasonable additions. Matthew Boyd He signed a one-year, $5.2 million deal, with the Giants hoping to have the Southern Tigers back from flexor surgery by mid-June. Former Royal Family Members Jacob Jones Put pen to paper on a one-year $1.75 million contract that Kansas City didn’t offer. Carlos Martineza former All-Star with the Cardinals, signed a minor league contract.
Of all the names in that group, Junis is probably the most unidentified one. The 29-year-old and former were named in the 29th round, and seemed part of the player’s development success story for the Royals during his first two seasons before coming out in his last three years with Kansas City. From 2017-18, Junis gave the Royals 275 1/3 rounds of 4.35 balls with a strike rate just below the league average, a strong walking rate and slightly below average inclinations for the globe. It wasn’t a star-caliber profile by any means, but ask any scout in the world and they’ll be glad to spot a viable fourth or fifth start in Round 29 of the draft.
However, the 2019-21 seasons did not turn out as well as the Joneses or the royal family had hoped. Although he started what still is a career high in 2019, he climbed to 5.24 as his walking rate increased and began to allow increasing amounts of hard contact. Things got worse in 2020, and by June of 2021, Junis found himself selected for Triple-A for the first time since 2017. Between that and the 5.36 ERA Junis published from 2019-21, it came as no surprise that the royals chose Not offering him a contract, and instead pushing him into the free agent market.
Jeunesse’s one-year deal with the Giants seemed like a reasonable deep pick-up for a seasoned arm with one year of minor league options remaining, but it proved to be much more than that. In 17 San Francisco games, 14 of which started, Junis holds a 4.04 ERA with a 20.9% strike rate and a 4.7% stellar walk rate. Independent metrics like FIP (3.83), SIERA (3.72) and xERA (3.85) all feel it was a little better than that. Most of the year, the ERA has worn in the mid or low 3.00 seconds, although a recent pair of six-stroke clunkers have swelled their age a bit.
Even with his recent quarrels, Jeunesse was much more than a temporary hiatus in the rotation. He averages only about five innings at each start – somewhat in line with the league average at this point – and he’s held opponents by three runs or fewer in 13 appearances this season.
The Giants changed the choice of Jeunesse on the field and did so to good results; He’s thrown his slider 51.9% of the time and he’s only made .210/.255/.359 in 192 board appearances that ended with that pitch. He also eliminated his four stitches and effectively interrupted him in favor of a diver who threw him at 30.6%, and while the field still takes heavy hits, opponents inflict far less damage on the field than either of the previous two fastballs. The iterations Junis used in a much higher segment.
Junis will likely end up giving the Giants anywhere from two wins above the substitution this year – it’s at 1.6 bWAR and 0.9 fWAR right now – which is a solid return on their minimal investment per se. But the Giants will also retain Jeunesse’s rights into the 2023 season, as he remains eligible to referee and will finish the year with more than five years of service. He will be due a raise on his salary this year, but jumping into the $3 million range for a serviceable fourth start is nonetheless a bargain.
The Giants already have four junior players on contract in 2023 – Webb, Wood, Cobb and DeSclafani – but could lose Carlos Rodon to free agency if he rejects his player option (which is a lock, as long as he remains healthy). They won’t simply replace Rodon with Junis and call it a day, so the probability is that they will add an impact start and enter 2023 with Junis as a sixth or perhaps even seventh start. That would put him in the center of the early season Bulls, likely in a long relief role, but given DeSclafani, Wood and Cobb’s injury history, there should be rounds available for him next year.
The Junis truck is clearly not a major hit that will change the tide of the franchise for years to come, but he has quietly been a huge asset to the Giants who have had their share of stadium injuries – and will continue to pay dividends on their investments into the 2023 season. A ton hasn’t gone right for the Giants this year, but Their ability to rehabilitate and, in some cases, reinvent shooters remains very powerful.
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