MLB Free Agency: Rays Complete Their Infield with Jeff Keppinger Signing
Keppinger, who will turn 32 in April, was exclusively a second baseman for the Astros and Giants in 2011, hitting a combined .277/.300/.377. Keppinger was non-tendered in December by the Giants, who instead kept Mike Fontenot to provide infield depth.
While primarily playing second base in his career, Keppinger has appeared in 178 games at shortstop throughout his seven season major league career and started at short in 157 of those games. Based on his career fielding percentage and range factor, Keppinger is a shortstop who makes nearly all the plays he gets to, but has average to below-average range.
Of course, Keppinger could always play second base and force Ben Zobrist over to short. Keppinger has roughly league average range at second base, but an above-average glove. This seems unlikely, though, since on their careers Keppinger has posted better defensive numbers at shortstop than Zobrist. However, Zobrist's first defensive appearances for the Rays were at shortstop.
Whatever combination Joe Maddon uses on the infield, he'll find a way to make it work. Keep in mind that this is the man who used five infielders during Game 3 of the 2008 World Series. If he has the pieces, he'll find a way to make it work.
Whatever combination Maddon goes with, Keppinger on the infield will be vastly more productive than the slated trio that would try and fill his role of Elliot Johnson, Sean Rodriguez and Reid Brignac. That trio combined in 2011 for a depressing .187/.263/.278 slash line.
No matter how he's used, Keppinger represents a clear, cost-efficient upgrade for the 2012 Rays.
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