As I mentioned a couple days ago, the Rays were rumored to be interested in Jeff Keppinger. Now, it seems, the rumors had some substance. Marc Topkin is reporting that the Rays are close to a deal with infielder Jeff Keppinger. It is reported that Keppinger’s deal will be a Major League one, guaranteeing him a roster spot.
Jeff Keppinger will be a good addition for the Rays. He has been a good bench guy for years and could fill in at second, short, and third. Keppinger hit .277 last season in 99 games for the Astros and Giants. He played more games in 2010, playing in 137 with the Astros. He started 132 of those games, hitting .288 with a .351 OBP. If Keppinger could put up numbers like that and win the starting job at short, he would bring consistency that the Rays have been unable to find with Rodriguez and Brignac.
Keppinger played strictly second base last year, which is a negative considering he would be expected to play short mostly for the Rays with Ben Zobrist at second. Keppinger has played a fair amount at short, though, so I would expect it to be an easy transition.
This could be an interesting development, as it could lead to Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez being less safe than originally thought. If a guy like Will Rhymes were to tear it up in the spring you could see Brignac or Rodriguez sent down or traded. The Rays will most likely go with three middle infielders entering the season, and if the deal happens Keppinger will secure one. I would guess Rodriguez would have another one considering he can play outfield and first, unlike Brignac. From there I could easily see Will Rhymes giving Brignac a run for his money in the spring.
I would expect Keppinger to see a fair amount of starting time this season at short. I would expect Brignac’s job to be in jeopardy entering the season if the Rays do finalize a deal. Rhymes could provide consistency that Brignac just doesn’t offer, which could lead to him winning the final utility roster spot.
Rhymes could win simply because of his flexibility, because while he has also seen most of his time at second, he did spend some time in the outfield last season and has played short some in his career. We all know Joe Maddon likes to have players that can play everywhere, which could lead Rhymes to winning the spot.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see Reid Brignac or Sean Rodriguez’s names come up in trade rumors in the near future. Robbie has written about how the Rays should keep Brignac and trade Rodriguez, but I see the Rays being more aggressive with a Brignac deal since he has more potential value and less flexibility.
It will be interesting to see how the Spring plays out. With the news of a potential Jeff Keppinger signing there could be a good battle brewing for roster spots with the Rays. With all the new faces at the utility spots, it could be veteran Rays who could find themselves on the outside looking in.