Twins trade for Rays reliever Kevin Jepsen

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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.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.