Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hello, Jepsen; good-bye, Hu

Chih-Wei Hu with Cedar Rapids in
The Twins did make a bullpen trade Friday afternoon: Kevin Jepsen from Tampa Bay for two minor league pitchers, Chih-Wei Hu and Alexis Tapia.

The trade addresses the biggest need on the roster. I'm lukewarm on it only because I had already developed an emotional investment in Hu, who I saw last summer in his full-season league debut in Cedar Rapids. Having been impressed by him before I ever read a scouting report gives me a sense of discovery. (Tapia is a Venezuelan pitching at Elizabethton; I don't know enough about him to say anything beyond: He's a 19-year-old arm in Rookie ball, and good luck with that.)

But really, I cannot complain about this deal. Jepsen isn't a big name, but he does fill an immediate need: He's a power arm who has pitched in late innings for the Angels and the Rays. This is the kind of trade I said Friday morning I was looking for.

Kevin Jepsen, 31,
has a 2.81 ERA with
the Rays this season.
Hu, 21, has a chance to be a major league starting pitcher. He has four average pitches with good command of each. He was, to my self-trained eye last summer, much more polished than the higher-bonused high draft picks who started the day before and the day after, Ryan Eades and Kohl Stewart. Personally, I would rather have Hu than Eades; perhaps the Twins or Rays agree, perhaps they don't. They agreed on Hu.

Having praised Hu, I have a hard time seeing where he would fit in a future Twins rotation. As matters stand, the Twins have seven big-league starters (counting Trevor May in the bullpen and Ricky Nolasco on the disabled list). Of those seven, only Mike Pelfrey is not under team control for not just 2016 but 2017. Plus the Twins have Jose Berrios and Tyler Duffey pushing at the door from Triple A. Even at the High-A level where Hu's been so effective this year, the Twins have a bunch of starting prospects -- Eades, Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Tyler Jay, Aaron Slegers, Mat Batts -- who certainly aren't markedly worse pitchers than Hu and most of whom got bigger bonuses when they signed.

I'm not eager to give up Hu. But this deal helps the chances of the 2015 team snagging that wild card berth, and it doesn't do obvious damage to the long-term outlook.

Later on Friday, the Twins demoted both Danny Santana and Jorge Polanco, a pair of moves that opened roster slots for Jepsen and Trevor Plouffe, back after the birth of his son Teddy. I'll probably use the Monday print column to comment on that.

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