The Kansas City Royals gave Jake Junis 675,000 reasons to sign with them and forego his collegiate career.
Junis did just that, agreeing to a five-year deal that includes a $675,000 signing bonus. The recent Rock Falls High School graduate signed the deal on Sunday. Terms were released Monday. The deal will pay Junis, who will be a pitcher, approximately $741,000 in all.
“We’ve been working for this since I was 6 years old. My parents worked very hard to make this happen for me,” Junis said in a phone interview from Arizona, where he’s preparing to work out with the Royals’ rookie league team in Surprise, Ariz. “My dad used every penny he had. I owe it to them.”
The Royals drafted Junis in the 29th round after his asking price of $800,000 was apparently too high for any club to draft him in the early rounds, where he was projected to be taken.
The deal is a large one for a late-round selection. Junis was concerned about what kind of offer he would receive after falling to the 29th round, but was pleased with the negotiations with the Royals.
“Their first offer was $600,000,” Junis said. “We were kind of [pleasantly] surprised. It shows how much they believe in me.”
Junis turned down the chance to play at NCAA Division I North Carolina State, which he had committed to last September, along with fellow Rock Falls grad Taylor Eikenberry. The Royals had representatives at the Junis’ home last Monday and N.C. State associate head coach Tom Holliday, father of the St. Louis Cardinals’ Matt Holliday, visited last Tuesday.
“It was the hardest decision of my life,” Junis said. “It was unreal to have people of that magnitude coming to my house to persuade me to play for them.”
Junis’ advisor and now agent is Sam Samardzija, brother of Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Junis had another advisor of sorts in Rock Falls grad Seth Blair, who is in his first year of professional baseball with the Quad Cities River Bandits, a Class A affiliate of the Cardinals in Davenport, Iowa.
Junis had a similar fate as Blair, who also fell to the late rounds of the draft out of high school when his asking price deemed too high. Blair went on to an outstanding career at Arizona State.
“Seth definitely helped me,” Junis said. “He didn’t tell me which way to go. He told me to do what’s best for me. It’s nice to have someone like that to talk to that’s been through it before.”
Though Junis had plenty of advice, he alone made the final call.
“It was my decision,” he said. “My parents were behind me either way.”
Samardzija could not be part of Junis’ negotiating process because Junis could not have an agent if he were to choose to go to college.
“It all went through me and my dad [Jody],” he said. “The Royals were good people to deal with. I’m proud to be part of their organization.”
Junis won’t get his signing bonus in one lump sum.
“I get my first check in 30 days, then another in January, and one every January from then on [through the contract],” he said.
Junis said his regular salary will be $1,100 per month, which computes to $13,200 per year.
He doesn’t have any big plans for his new-found wealth.
“I haven’t bought anything yet,” Junis said. “I’m planning on saving my money, investing, being smart with it. I’m not going to go crazy.”
Pitching was not what Junis had envisioned for so many years.
“It’s definitely not what I grew up dreaming about,” he said. “I dreamed about being a major league shortstop. But the Royals want me as a pitcher, and I’m going to do everything I can to be the best pitcher I can be.”
Junis will be in Arizona for the final two weeks of rookie ball there, but won’t pitch in any games. He’ll come home for 10-12 days, beginning Labor Day weekend, before heading back to Arizona for the fall instructional league.