Bullpen help has been an obvious need for Minnesota and the Twins finally addressed it, acquiring right-hander Kevin Jepsen from the Rays in exchange for minor leaguers Chih-Wei Hu and Alexis Tapia.
Jepsen throws in the mid-90s, but his strikeout rates have generally been underwhelming for a late-inning reliever and his control is poor. This season he has a nice-looking 2.81 ERA, but it comes with a sub par 34/20 K/BB ratio in 42 innings.
For his career, spanning parts of eight seasons for the Angels and Rays, he has a 3.80 ERA with 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.6 walks per nine innings while holding opponents to a .252 batting average.
Jepsen is a decent enough bullpen arm and should be at least a slight upgrade over the right-handed setup men the Twins have used for most of the year in Blaine Boyer and Casey Fien, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear. He’s making $3 million this season and is under team control for 2016 via arbitration, with a likely cost of at least $5 million.
Hu is a Single-A right-hander with good results and mediocre raw stuff, ranking among the team’s top 20 prospects coming into the season and improving his stock since then. Tapia is a 19-year-old rookie-ball starter signed out of Venezuela and hasn’t really emerged on the prospect radar much yet.
One month ago the Twins shifted top-100 prospect Alex Meyer from the rotation to the bullpen at Triple-A due to ongoing control problems. And now they’re calling him up for his MLB debut as a reliever.
Meyer thrived in the bullpen, posting a 0.53 ERA and 20/6 K/BB ratio in 17 innings while holding opponents to a .188 batting average. And at 6-foot-9 with a high-90s fastball the former first-round draft pick certainly profiles as a potential late-inning bullpen option.
His control remains an issue, but the Twins are hoping that Meyer focusing on working 1-2 innings at a time will allow him to fully unleash his powerful raw stuff. Glen Perkins has the closer role locked down, but Meyer could supplant Casey Fien and Blaine Boyer as Minnesota’s primary setup man three years after the Twins acquired him from the Nationals in exchange for Denard Span.
Right-hander Blaine Boyer has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Twins that includes an invitation to spring training.
Boyer’s career was derailed by injuries from 2011-2013, but the 33-year-old reliever bounced back nicely last season with a 3.57 ERA and 29/8 K/BB ratio in 40 innings for the Padres.
He’s had an up-and-down career filled with lots of arm problems, but if the improved control Boyer showed last season is around to stay he could be a useful middle reliever for Minnesota.