The Royals announced this afternoon that right-hander Jakob Junis cleared outright waivers. He’s elected minor league free agency, as is his right as a player with three-plus years of big league service.
Junis has spent a decade in the Kansas City organization, making his MLB debut in 2017. He broke in with passable back-of-the-rotation production over his first couple years, but his numbers have gone backwards recently. Junis managed just a 5.24 ERA in 175 1/3 innings in 2019, and he’s been limited to 64 2/3 frames of 5.71 ball since the start of 2020.
While Junis typically posts solid strikeout and walk rates, he’s also given up a fair amount of hard contact. That’s been reflected in a bloated home run rate, as Junis has served up more longballs than average in each of the last four seasons despite pitching his home games at spacious Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals have graduated a crop of highly-regarded pitching prospects over the past two seasons. The influx of younger talent temporarily bumped Junis to the bullpen midseason, but he struggled over ten outings in that new role. Eligible for arbitration for a second time this winter, he’d been projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for a $1.8MM salary. The front office determined not to make him that kind of financial commitment, and they’ll cut him loose a few weeks before the official non-tender deadline. It remains to be seen whether the 29-year-old Junis will secure a big league deal on the open market or be limited to minor league offers with Spring Training invitations.