On Friday, the Minnesota Twins upgraded their bullpen by acquiring right-handed reliever Kevin Jepsen from the Tampa Bay Rays for two pitching prospects before the non-waiver trade deadline. Jepsen is expected to be the Twins top setup man behind closer Glen Perkins.
Jepsen, 31, has an ERA of 2.81 with 20 walks and 34 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings with 6 saves this season for the Rays. In his career, both with the Rays and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Jepsen has a 3.80 career ERA with 305 strikeouts and 130 walks in 322 1/3 innings. He figures to help strengthen a relief core that is ranked 24th in the majors with an ERA of 3.97.
According to Fangraphs.com, Jepsen has an average fastball of 94.4 mph. He also features a curveball and an occasional changeup.
Jepsen will make $3.03 million this season and will be eligible again for arbitration for the 2016 season before he can become a free agent. This means the Twins will have control of him for more than the two months remaining in the season.
“That was big because we certainly want to bring a guy over here that was going to stay with us for longer than the two-month period,” General Manager Terry Ryan was quoted in an article on the Twins website. “It’s important to get some control so you’re not renting a player for two months.”
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Twins designated reliever Caleb Thielbar for assignment. Thielbar had been pitching at triple-A Rochester. To make room on the 25-man roster, the Twins sent shortstop Danny Santana to Rochester for the second time this season after Friday’s 6-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
As for the pitching prospects the Twins gave up, they were both pitching in the lower minor leagues. The first was Chi-Wei Hu, a 21-year-old from Taiwan. He had an ERA of 2.44 with 73 strikeouts and 19 walks in 84 2/3 innings with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Hu made one start at Rochester where he gave up one run in six innings earlier this year. Hu ranked #20 on MLBPipeline.com’s list of the top Twins prospects.
The other prospect the Twins gave up was Alexis Tapia, a 19-year-old from Venezuela. He had an ERA of 3.82 with 33 strikeouts and seven walks in 33 innings at Rookie-level Elizabethton. He did appear in a couple of games earlier this year with Fort Myers.
This trade is a good fit for the Twins. Jepsen will be a key figure in the bullpen down the stretch as the Twins make a run at the playoffs. Not only that, but Jepsen will also be able to help the Twins come 2016.