The Twins made a flurry of roster moves over the weekend. None of them involve a good reliever that will help the bullpen, but I probably flogged that horse enough in this afternoon's game recap.
Twins acquire Kevin Jepsen
Just prior to Friday afternoon's non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins traded for right-hander Kevin Jepsen from the Rays. Jepsen, who just turned 31 a week ago, is a right-hander who spent the first few years of his career being a seventh and eighth inning guy for the Angels. In December he was sent to Tampa Bay for Matt Joyce, who's turned out to be much worse than anyone hoped he'd be. Jepsen, meanwhile, is in the midst of the worst healthy season of his career.
In 2014 Jepsen posted a 2.63 ERA, which was backed up by impressive peripherals: a 2.78 FIP, a 29% strikeout rate, and a .191 opponent batting average. Before arriving in Minnesota his 2.81 ERA looked just as impressive, but the 4.14 FIP, 19% strikeout rate, and 11% walk rate make him less the reliable right-handed reliever that the club needed and more of a decent middle reliever who could take innings away from Blaine Boyer. Boyer, of course, hasn't been replaced.
Jepsen is earning $3.025 million this season through arbitration. He'll be eligible for another raise through his final arbitration season in 2016, which should put his salary figure in the range of $4 million.
Heading back to Tampa Bay in return for what can democratically be dubbed a moderate improvement to the bullpen are Chih-Wei Hu and Alexis Tapia. Hu, our #18 Twins prospect heading into 2015, is a 21-year old right-hander out of Taiwan who had posted a 2.44 ERA through 15 starts for Fort Myers. He's an impressive prospect statistically, but scouting reports repeatedly mention that his stats are ahead of his stuff; it's worth remembering that scouts say the same thing about Stephen Gonsalves and used to say the same thing about Jose Berrios. While fans may overvalue their team's prospects, there's no doubt that Hu is a very nice prospect to attain for a reliever who could have been traded in August pretty easily.
But on top of Hu is Tapia, a 19-year old right-hander out of Venezuela. He made six starts in Elizabethton this year as well as a pair of relief appearances in Fort Myers, and as a whole in the Twins' system owned a 2.94 ERA in 21 starts and ten relief appearances with a 5.6-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio and a 1.06 WHIP.
Tapia is probably a C prospect at the moment, and John Sickels gave Hu a C+ grade (although it wouldn't surprise me to see this move to a B- for 2016). How you feel about this will depend a great deal on your emphasis on numbers versus scouting, but no matter how you look at it it's a nice return for Tampa for a guy like Jepsen.
Caleb Thielbar designated for assignment
To make room on the 40-man roster for Jepsen, the Twins designated Thielbar for assignment. He allowed three runs in five innings for the Twins in his one Major League stint this year, but in 109 combined relief appearances for Minnesota dating back to 2013 he owns a 2.74 ERA. The 28-year old has struggled in 2015, walking 18 versus 19 strikeouts in 30 Triple-A innings. We'll see if Thielbar will accept his assignment.
Tommy Milone to the disabled list, Tyler Duffey to debut
The Twins have placed lefty Tommy Milone on the disabled list with what the team is calling a "mild left elbow strain." Milone apparently felt "discomfort" during his last start, which led to an MRI. The MRI revealed a strain but it sounds like it should be a short-term stint on the disabled list.
Interestingly the Twins have tabbed Tyler Duffey to take Milone's turn in the rotation - over Trevor May, but also over Jose Berrios and lefty Taylor Rogers. Duffey has been added to the 40-man roster and makes his Major League debut in a huge series against the Blue Jays, getting his first crack for Minnesota on Wednesday. Just 24, Duffey's status as a prospect has really jumped over the last two years with his performances at Double and Triple-A. A fifth-round pick for the Twins in 2012, Duffey owns a 2.66 ERA in 21 starts this year between Chattanooga (eight starts) and Rochester (13 starts).
Danny Santana, Jorge Polanco optioned
The Twins are returning to a three-man bench. With Trevor Plouffe returning from paternity leave and Jepsen needing a place on the 25-man roster, Polanco was sent back to Double-A and Santana was optioned to Triple-A. It's interesting that Polanco was returned to the Lookouts considering he'd been in Rochester, but as he's being groomed for shortstop at the moment it was probably the only thing the club could do since Santana plays the same position .
Polanco is 3-for-10 with two walks and a strikeout for the Twins this year. Santana hit .218/.242/.298 in 263 plate appearances for Minnesota, including 16 errors in 568 innings at short. That's an error every four games.
While Santana's return to Minnesota seems dubious for 2015, there's little doubt that Polanco will see time in September if not before. In the meantime it looks like Molitor will go with a combination of Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez at short.
Ryan Pressly to 60-day disabled list
To make room for Duffey on the 40-man roster, Ryan Pressly has been moved to the 60-day disabled list. Pressly is apparently pain free from his lat strain, but as of last week's official injury update has yet to even pick up a baseball since heading to the DL on July 6. Duffey's addition to the roster fills up the 40-man again.