The Rays ended their search for an extra infielder yesterday, agreeing with Jeff Keppinger for a one-year deal. The 31 year-old veteran, who plays three positions (2B, SS, and 3B), will bring some versatility to the Rays’ infield. With Ben Zobrist at second base and Sean Rodriguez probably starting at shortstop, Keppinger will likely take over one of the bench spots on the Opening Day roster.
Keppinger played 99 games for both the Houston Astros and the San Francisco Giants last year, posting a .277/.300/.377 line through 379 at-bats. After seven seasons of MLB experience, Keppinger owns a career line of .281/.332/.388 playing for five different teams. His right-handed bat doesn’t produce many runs, but he has established himself as a solid contact-hitter in the big leagues. Keppinger doesn’t play well defensively or run well on the bases, but his ability to make contact with the baseball is something that apparently attracts the Rays. Picking up Keppinger wasn’t the only move the Rays made for a backup infielder this offseason, as ex-Detroit Tiger Will Rhymes was signed to a minor league contract earlier this January. Adding Keppinger to the roster probably ended the Rays’ search for a right-handed infield bats, but there’s no guarantee that Andrew Friedman won’t take another dip into free agency.
Although no financials have been publicized yet, I believe the Rays made a pretty good move here. They add a versatile contact-hitter that should improve a rather offensively-weak bench. Tampa Bay’s baseball team is looking pretty good right now, as Friedman continues to put together more pieces of the puzzle.
Also in Rays news, Matt Moore was recently ranked #1 on MLB.com’s 2012 Top 100 Prospects list. The Rays’ young fireballer was ranked ahead of some huge prospect names such as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Moore was one of six Rays that made Jonathan Mayo’s list. The five other Rays prospects on the list included shortstop Hak-Ju Lee (#43), right-handed pitcher Chris Archer (#74), shortstop Tim Beckham (#92), outfielder Mikie Mahtook (#96), and right-handed pitcher Taylor Guerrieri (#99).