When Freddy Sanchez went down with a freak shoulder separation in June, the San Francisco Giants hoped that he wouldn't be done for the season. When it became apparent that he would miss the remainder of the season, Brian Sabean acquired Jeff Keppinger to fill in at second base.
Keppinger has filled in admirably. He certainly does not have the range that Sanchez has at second base, but he has hit .277 as a Giant and has probably earned himself a chance at returning to San Francisco in 2012.
Sanchez is expected to be ready to play at or around opening day 2012. When he is healthy, he is an All-Star candidate at second base both offensively and defensively. He is never going to hit a lot of home runs, but he will hit for average and is a perfect No. 2 hitter in any line up. His bat control and approach at the plate have been sorely missed by a team that thinks that bat control is an exterminator’s job and approach at the plate is how you walk to the plate.
Sanchez will be the starting second baseman for the Giants in 2012 assuming he is healthy. He is under contract for a relatively inexpensive six million dollars, and it is the final year of his contract. Sanchez's tenure as a Giant has been marred by injuries, which is unfortunate since he is so effective when he is healthy. He is a team leader, and the Giants hope that they will have him healthy all next year.
So, where does this leave Jeff Keppinger? Keppinger is earning 2.3 million dollars this year in his second to last arbitration season. He is once again eligible for arbitration after this season, and I would fully expect the Giants to either offer him arbitration, or more likely, attempt to sign him to a reasonable two year deal.
Keppinger is a fantastic insurance policy in the event that Sanchez is still injured at the beginning of the year or gets hurt again. With Mark DeRosa's contract up, the Giants will be looking for an experienced backup infielder, and I believe that they view Keppinger as just that. He is consistent, makes decent contact and can play more than second base if needed having spent the majority of his career at second base with some shortstop and a little third base.
The Giants must not only find a way to acquire some run producers this offseason; they must also get deeper on their bench. Bringing Jeff Keppinger back is a step in the right direction.