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UPDATE: Rays reach contract with infielder Jeff Keppinger

Jan 25, 2012, 9:43 PM EDT

keppinger giants getty Getty Images

From Marc Topkin of the newly-named Tampa Bay Times comes word that the Rays are “closing in on a major-league deal” with infielder Jeff Keppinger.

An agreement could be finalized later this week.

Keppinger batted just .277/.300/.377 with six home runs and 35 RBI across 399 plate appearances last season between the Astros and Giants, and he turns 32 years old in April. But the former fourth-round draft pick is capable of playing all over the infield and he owns an .852 career OPS vs. left-handed pitchers.

The Rays will likely throw him into their rotation of middle infielders, using him primarly against southpaws.

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UPDATE, 9:43 PM: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick says it’s done. Keppinger gets a one-year major league deal.

  1. hittfamily - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    This makes no sense to me. That is a lot of money for a cash strapped team, especially when Keppinger will likely be a bat off the bench. He will play against lefties, but that is what Sean Rodriguez does. So either Sean Rod or Keppinger has to come off the bench, while the duo platoons with Reid Brignac. Keppinger is not better than Rodriguez, and he is certainly not cheaper.

    This also decreases the probability of Upton or a pitcher being traded for a shortstop. It really limits their options. It also likely forces out Sam Fuld. Guyer will platoon with Joyce, or Zobrist with both Rodriguez and Keppinger handling the infield. They won’t have 2 reserve infielders and 2 reserve outfielders, and Guyer has earned a shot. Of all the possible reserves, Fuld is the odd man out because unlike Guyer, Keppinger, Rodriguez, and Brignac, Sam Fuld will not platoon.

    I don’t like this move, because replacing Sam Fuld for Jeff Keppinger doesn’t help the team enough to justify 2 million dollars.

  2. againsville - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:22 AM

    This is a great move. The rays could not handle lefties at all last year. Assuming Scott and keppinger Noel out, these are great moves. If we can score more than last year, we will be the best team in baseball this year.

    • hittfamily - Jan 26, 2012 at 1:00 AM

      Who does he replace in the lineup when they face a lefty? Matt Joyce, Carlos Pena, Luke Scott and Reid Brignac are their liabilities vs lefties. Guyer will platoon with Matt Joyce to offset his liabilities. Sean Rodriguez will platoon with Brignac. Russ Canzler, a great hitter who stinks defensively, will relieve Pena and Scott, but neither their most expensive hitter in Pena, nor their second most expensive Scott will be straight platooned.

      12 pitchers, Longo, Zobrist, Pena, Scott, Jennings, Upton, Joyce, and 2 catchers are locks to be on the 25 man team. Brignac will start the season as the SS. That leaves 3 spots for Sean Rodriguez, Brandon Guyer, Russ Canzler, Jeff Keppinger, Sam Fuld, Elliot Johnson, and Justin Ruggiano. Johnson and Ruggiano will likely start the season in AAA. Canzler will get a shot at DH for April since Luke Scott will start the season on the DL. Rodriguez hits lefties very well, and has played 7 positions in the last 2 years, a must to be a Maddon bench player, so I believe he makes the team. They just signed Keppinger to a ML contract, so he makes the team. The Rays have to choose between Fuld and Guyer. Fuld is a great defensive replacement, but so is Guyer. Guyer can hit though, and likely platoons with Joyce.

      This means the Rays have to trade or release Fuld. I do not like the Keppinger signing, because he is basically Sean Rodriguez, except 2 million dollars pricier. He also isn’t necessary, and forces a very capable Sam Fuld off the team, and Fuld was worth a 1.7 WAR last year in only 346 PA. The Rays were already extremely deep off the bench, and I can only think that it was a move done in anticipation of a trade, with either Upton being shipped, or Rodriguez or Fuld being a throw in with a Neimann/Davis.Cobb trade. If this is the case, good signing. If no trades are made, Keppinger is an expensive redundant backup infielder.

  3. stex52 - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Jeff Keppinger should appear in every article on the net about why batting average is a poor way to judge a player. He doesn’t strike out much, which is nice. But OPS is poor, fielding range is limited, arm mediocre, and no power except occasionally against left-handers. I had thought he would work out better for Houston, but what you see is what you get. You would think a guy who strikes out so little would walk a lot more, wouldn’t you?

    He is pretty good as a role player against lefties, and will play anywhere he is asked. But it seems like they paid too much for that.

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