The Brewers agreed to a one-year contract with right-hander Jakob Junis on Monday night.
Kiley McDaniel first reported the agreement, and Ken Rosenthal stipulated the terms. Junis will be guaranteed $7 million in the form of a $4 million salary in 2024 and a $3 million buyout on a mutual option for 2025.
Trading Corbin Burnes left the Brewers needing innings, and Junis figures to be in the running for a rotation spot.
The 31-year-old wrapped up a two-year stint with the San Francisco Giants, where he served as a swingman. In 63 games (21 starts), Junis logged 198 innings with a 4.18 ERA, 3.69 FIP, and 3.59 SIERA.
2024 was arguably the most successful season of Junis’ career. He worked 86 innings while posting a 3.87 ERA and 3.74 FIP. His 26.2% strikeout rate was a career high.
Junis began his career with an unsuccessful five-year stint with the Royals, compiling a 4.82 ERA and 4.74 FIP. After catching on with the Giants, he drastically increased his usage of his sweeping slider, replaced his lackluster four-seam fastball with a sinker, and added velocity.
Junis’ slider is his best pitch and featuring it more often has led to increased effectiveness. However, finding a productive fastball to pair with the slider has continued to be a struggle.
While his sinker has a better shape than his four-seamer, it grades as a below-average pitch by Stuff+ and had 1.4 fewer inches of run on average than sinkers with a similar velocity.
Most pitchers who throw sinkers pound it inside to same-handed hitters to jam them. The poor quality of Junis’ sinker made it easy for opponents to do damage when he threw it to his arm side.
This deterred Junis from using the inner half of the plate, and he instead threw more comeback sinkers to the outer third.
The steady diet of sliders away and backdoor sinkers allows opposing hitters to eliminate the inner half of the plate. Developing a fastball he can effectively use to his arm side will be critical for Junis to take a step forward. Bryse Wilson, Joel Payamps, and Colin Rea are examples of pitchers who threw heavy doses of arm-side sinkers to right-handers after joining the Brewers last year.
Even without a pitch mix change, Junis could experience better results simply by changing uniforms. He was paired with one of the worst defenses in baseball last year in San Francisco.
The Giants combined for -5 Outs Above Average when Junis was on the mound last year, which ranked in the bottom 30 of qualified pitchers. The Brewers ranked as one of baseball’s best defensive teams last year and figure to be near the top again in 2024.
The Brewers also traded left-hander Ethan Small to the Giants for cash considerations. He was designated for assignment last week after the Brewers acquired Joey Ortiz and DL Hall in the Burnes trade.
The former first-round pick failed to develop as a starting pitcher and spent most of the 2023 season pitching out of the bullpen with Triple-A Nashville.