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AL Notes: Red Sox, Twins, deGrom

While adding to the front of the rotation once appeared to be a top priority for the Red Sox this winter, they’ve largely come up short in that regard as they simply swapped Chris Sale out for Lucas Giolito in their rotation mix. More recently, it appears the club has begun looking for other options in their quest to improve the club’s pitching staff. MassLive’s Chris Cotillo reported recently that the club has interest in right-handers Jakob Junis and Codi Heuer.

Junis, 31, defied the odds as a 29th-round pick by the Royals in the 2011 draft and managed to make the majors during the 2017 season. In the years since then, the right-hander has managed to put together a solid career while swinging between the bullpen and the rotation for both Kansas City and San Francisco. While he typically offered roughly league average production for most of his career, Junis enjoyed a career year with the Giants this past season as he pitched to a 3.87 ERA with a 3.74 FIP in 86 innings of work. In 40 appearances for San Francisco last year, Junis struck out a career-best 26.2% of batters faced while walking just 5.7%.

Impressive as Junis was last season, the right-hander is unlikely to be an impactful addition to the Red Sox rotation mix if signed as he tended to pitch most effectively in shorter bursts last year. The righty surrendered a 5.32 ERA in 31 innings of work across nine appearances where he threw 50 pitches or more last year. By contrast, Junis posted a strong 2.95 ERA across 39 2/3 innings of work in 26 appearances where he threw 40 pitches or less. Junis’s success in shorter appearances could make him an interesting relief option for the Red Sox, particularly if the club parts with closer Kenley Jansen before Opening Day.

Heuer, meanwhile, would be more of a speculative addition by the Red Sox. The right-hander last pitched in the majors back in 2021 due to Tommy John surgery and a fractured elbow, but sports a solid 3.56 ERA and 3.66 FIP across 91 innings of work in the majors between the White Sox and Cubs. The righty was nothing short of dominant for the south siders during the 2020 season in particular, as he paired a 50% groundball rate with a upper-90s heater that allowed him to strike out 27.2% of batters faced in 21 appearances. The Cubs non-tendered Heuer earlier this offseason, likely thanks to his two-year layoff from pitching while rehabbing from multiple elbow issues. Still, the 27-year-old hurler has flashed set-up caliber skills during his limited big league appearances and could be a savvy add to the Boston bullpen if healthy.

More from around the American League…

  • The Twins are lacking in starting pitching depth after losing right-handers Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, and Tyler Mahle in free agency earlier this winter, and GM Thad Levine acknowledged that concern during a recent appearance on MLBNetwork Radio. During the appearance, Levine noted that the club feels comfortable with its current starting five of Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack, and Louie Varland, but that hasn’t stopped the club from exploring both the trade and free agent markets for other rotation options. Bolstering the club’s rotation mix would not only provide the club with much-needed depth to safeguard against injury but could also give Varland competition for the fifth-starter role, allowing him to return to the multi-inning bullpen role in which he thrived late last season. Michael Lorenzen, Mike Clevinger, and Hyun Jin Ryu are among the mid-level rotation options still available this winter.
  • Rangers right-hander Jacob deGrom made just six starts for the reigning World Series champions before undergoing Tommy John surgery last spring, but optimism remains at the oft-injured ace will be able to contribute to the club at some point during the 2024 campaign. As noted by Shawn McFarland of the Dallas Morning News, deGrom provided a health update to reporters during the club’s FanFest this weekend. The righty indicated that his arm is feeling good seven months removed from going under the knife and that he currently plans to begin throwing again “sometime this spring.” While deGrom did not mention a timetable for his return to the big league mound, the update tracks with previous comments from the right-hander back in October, which indicated he was targeting a return to the majors in August of 2024. Among the most talented pitchers of his generation, it’s hard to overstate the potential impact deGrom could have for the Rangers this year if he’s available for the stretch run and a potential playoff push. Over his past 108 starts dating back to the 2018 season, deGrom has posted a 2.08 ERA with a near-matching 2.11 FIP and a whopping 921 strikeouts in just 675 2/3 innings of work.


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