The Astros have had magical late-season surges before, but their chances of making the playoffs in 2011 are essentially non-existent. At 29-57, they have the worst record in baseball and are now open to trading players who don’t figure into their long-term plans.
Jeff Keppinger figures to draw interest this summer and GM Ed Wade will presumably consider offers for the second baseman. Keppinger is under team control through 2012, but he doesn’t appear to be a cornerstone player like Hunter Pence, Bud Norris or Jordan Lyles.
That doesn’t mean he can’t help a contender, though. Since recovering from left foot surgery and returning to Houston’s lineup at the end of May, the 31-year-old has hit .328/.346/.424 with two home runs. He has played second base this year and has big league experience around the infield and outfield.
However, Keppinger’s batting average on balls in play is a robust .331 this year, significantly higher than his career mark of .291. This suggests that his current level of production is not sustainable, though his career line of .285/.339/.393 is still respectable.
Keppinger’s $2.3MM salary makes him a more expensive option than Jeff Baker or Jamey Carroll, two other trade candidates at the position. He's still relatively cheap, though. By the time the trade deadline arrives, Keppinger will have less than $1MM remaining on his contract. Plus, he’s under team control in 2012, so an acquiring team would have flexibility for next year.
The Tigers, Giants and Cardinals are among the contenders that could consider upgrading at second base. Given the Astros’ record and Keppinger’s better-than-expected performance so far in 2011, it won’t be surprising if Wade trades his second baseman within the month.