Sometimes there are bad signings and sometimes there are good signings. If the New York Yankees want a high-reward, low-cost free agent, well then Jeff Keppinger is your man. Keppinger, mainly a utility infielder, poses a lot of upside for the Yankees in the fact that he still has a very active bat and plays solid defense. This makes the case for Eduardo Nunez to be trade bait a possibility. As for Jayson Nix, I say you keep him one more year in case of any major injuries and there is the chance that Eric Chavez does not return. In this sense, signing Keppinger almost seems like a no-brainer.
Let’s take a look at Keppinger’s 2012 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Keppinger played in 115 games this season which is the third most in his career. At 32, Keppinger does present a veteran presence and he’s coming off another solid season. His .325/.367/.439 slash line is rather impressive for more or less a utility guy. He doesn’t blow pitchers away with home runs as he only hit nine this season to go along with 40 RBI, but his contact is deadly, just like Derek Jeter‘s. Keppinger’s eye was better in 2012 as he swung at pitches outside the strike-zone 26.6 percent of the time versus 29.8 percent in 2011.
His offense isn’t the greatest, but it gets the job done. This season was one of his best years at the plate next to his 2010 campaign and the fact that he’s not slipping makes him an attractive addition to the Yankees roster. He provides solid contact and the Yankees know they might have some voids to fill with Nick Swisher gone and maybe Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez to follow.
Keppinger’s defensive versatility would be would be a welcome addition to this team. With Jeter’s ankle injury and Alex Rodriguez getting more time off, the Yankees are going to need someone to step in those shoes. Nunez’s defense needs more fine tuning, Nix isn’t too shabby in the field and Chavez can’t play all the time. But Keppinger is different. He played 104 games in the infield this year and only committed three errors between three different positions. Here’s a breakdown of all three positions:
- First base: 27 games, 168.2 innings, 1 error, 7 assists, -2.3 UZR, -1 DRS, .994 fielding percentage
- Second base: 27 games, 164 innings, 52 assists, -2.1 UZR, -3 DRS, 1.000 fielding percentage
- Third base: 50 games, 340 innings, 2 errors, 59 assists, 6.7 UZR, 7 DRS, .976 fielding percentage
Clearly third base is where Keppinger performs the best; however he’s not incredibly awful at the other two spots. He’s also played shortstop and the outfield before so the Yankees could virtually plug him anywhere in the field.
Of course the Yankees’ big problem is trying to sign and keep solid pitching, but getting Keppinger would not break the bank. He made $1.5 million in 2012 which is not much more than what Chavez earned this season and to get someone who is a few years younger without the injuries would be a steal.
As mentioned earlier, this would mean the departure of a few players. Chavez would more than likely be gone as he is currently a free agent and I’m not so sure the Yankees are going to be on the Nunez boat much longer if he continues to struggle in the field. Nix makes an interesting case to stay as he can play the same positions as Keppinger and has just as good of a glove. Is Keppinger an option the Yankees should consider? If everything fits into place then I say the Yankees should make an effort to sign Keppinger for 2013.