The Washington Nationals are taking another flier on a bullpen arm as they signed veteran Kevin Jepsen to a minor league deal yesterday
Earlier this week, the Washington Nationals signed former closer Francisco Rodriguez to a minor league deal as they try to see what he has left in his arsenal. Yesterday, the Nats added another major league veteran into their system. Chris Cotillo of SB Nation was the first to report that the team signed Kevin Jepsen to a minor league deal:
Jepsen hasn’t pitched yet this season after being released by the Arizona Diamondbacks in late March and is coming off of a rough 2016 campaign. In 33 games with the Twins and Rays, the 32-year-old had a 5.98 ERA and had just 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings (third lowest of his career).
When you look at relievers, some of them can have a good year one season and be really bad the next. Two years ago, Jepsen made 75 appearances for the same two teams and had a 2.33 ERA. But, that can tend to happen when a pitcher doesn’t have the arsenal to strike out a lot of hitters.
Over the last three seasons, the average velocity on Jepsen’s fastball has gone down. According to Fangraphs, he had an average heater of 95.7 miles-per-hour back in 2013. Last year, that number went all the way down to 93.6. In addition to the fastball, he also throws a curveball and changeup.
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If you compare the minor league deals between Rodriguez and Jepsen, the Washington Nationals are giving Jepsen more time to figure it out. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and MLB Network tweeted yesterday that there is a July 26 opt-out on his deal, which is Jepsen’s birthday.
It’s not a bad idea for the Nats to try to sign as many relievers on minor league deals as they can. But, at the same time, you have to wonder what impact it can have on the relievers in the Syracuse bullpen, particularly the strong trio of Erick Fedde, Austin Adams, and Wander Suero.
With it being a month away from the trade deadline, the Nats are clearly looking for bullpen help, but there aren’t many sellers right now that can help fill that need. One of the possible options, Giants closer Mark Melancon, just went on the disabled list with an elbow injury. Plus, with the injury to Trea Turner, they might need to add a bat as well.
The Jepsen signing is a low-risk move by the Nats and there won’t be any scrutiny on this deal compared to the Rodriguez signing. These two moves clearly show the Nats need help and with Koda Glover out for the foreseeable future, they definitely need it.