Jeff Keppinger Rumors

Marlins Pursuing Third Basemen

2:18am: In addition to Reynolds and Hannahan, the Marlins are interested in Jeff Keppinger and Ian Stewart acccording to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (on Twitter).

12:24am The Marlins' trade of Yunel Escobar to the Rays earlier tonight was prompted by the fact that Escobar approached the club saying he was not comfortable at third base just days after telling them otherwise, writes Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post.

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said that Escobar's $5MM salary will be re-invested toward finding a suitable third base replacement, either via free agency or trade. Earlier today it was reported that the Marlins have interest in Mark Reynolds, and the team has also been linked to Jack Hannahan tonight, though Hannahan's salary certainly won't approach the $5MM mark. For now, the Marlins aren't close to anything, says Capozzi.

Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel notes, via Twitter, that Zack Cox will get a look in Spring Training but likely isn't ready. The Marlins acquired Cox in exchange for Edward Mujica this past July.

Free Agent Rumors: Oswalt, Delmon, Sizemore, Ross, Ludwick

Here's the latest from the Winter Meetings on a handful of free agents:

Earlier updates:

A-Rod To Undergo Surgery, Miss Part Of 2013

12:31pm: The Yankees have announced in a press release that A-Rod will undergo "a left hip arthroscopy to repair a torn labrum, bone impingement and the correction of a cyst." The team pegs Rodriguez's recovery time at four to six months.

9:44am: Rodriguez's surgery will be on his left hip, not his previously-repaired right hip, according to Sherman. Recovery time is expected to be three to six months, so A-Rod figures to be healthy enough to return to the lineup by June, says Sherman (Twitter links).

9:17am: With A-Rod set to miss a chunk of 2013, the Yankees will likely step up their efforts to land Stephen Drew, tweets ESPN's Jim Bowden.

9:02am: Alex Rodriguez's struggles in 2012 may have been partly due to a hip injury, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. According to Sherman, A-Rod was playing with a tear in his hip, which had previously been surgically repaired. The Yankees third baseman will likely need more surgery and figures to miss part of the 2013 season, says Sherman (all Twitter links).

As Sherman notes, with Derek Jeter recovering from surgery as well, the Yankees "desperately" need help on the left side of the infield. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the team's options include Marco Scutaro and Jeff Keppinger, though Keppinger is also coming off surgery.

According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link), Rodriguez's surgery will take place at some point in January.

Central Notes: Reds, Chicago, Brewers, Pirates, Twins

Here are the latest news and notes from the NL and AL Central divisions:

Quick Hits: Keppinger, Soriano, Dodgers, Orioles

The latest links from around MLB…

  • The Cubs, Diamondbacks and Rays are bidding for free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger even though he broke his leg,’s Buster Olney reports (Twitter links). The 32-year-old recently broke his right fibula, but hopes to be ready for action by mid-January. Clubs don’t consider the injury serious enough to stop pursuing Keppinger.
  • MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons said on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show that Tigers owner Mike Ilitch spoke with agent Scott Boras about free agent closer Rafael Soriano yesterday (hat tip: Ken Rosenthal on Twitter).
  • The Dodgers confirmed the promotions of several front office members, including Logan White and De Jon Watson, Ken Gurnick of reports. White and Watson had been assistant GMs and are now vice presidents. They are both considered GM candidates within the industry.
  • The Orioles aren’t expected to offer Mark Reynolds arbitration, but they’re trying to work out a new deal by Friday’s deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players, Roch Kubatko of reports. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently examined Reynolds as a non-tender candidate.
  • Jair Jurrjens is expected to be non-tendered and Peter Moylan’s status as a non-tender candidate remains unclear, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (on Twitter).

Jeff Keppinger Recovering From Broken Fibula

Free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger enjoyed a career year in 2012, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports writes that the 32-year-old recently suffered a broken right fibula after tripping down a flight of stairs at his home.

Doctors have described the break as "small," and Keppinger has already undergone surgery to repair the leg. He is hoping to be healthy by mid-January and doesn't expect to be limited come Spring Training. Interested parties have begun looking over his medical reports, according to Heyman.

Keppinger batted .325/.367/.439 in 418 plate appearances for the Rays in 2012, and was particularly devastating to left-handed pitchers. He saw extensive time at first base, second base and third base during his time in Tampa Bay and also has significant Major League experience at shortstop, though not since 2008 with the Reds.

This is the second injury to his right side that Keppinger has endured in the past seven months. Back in May, he broke the big toe on his right foot when a foul ball struck him as he sat in the dugout. That injury resulted in more than a month on the disabled list.

Keppinger has been linked to the Yankees and Diamondbacks thus far, and Heyman reports that as many as six other teams are interested as well. Keppinger may still land a multi-year commitment because of a thin infield market, but I think it's fair to assume that his suitors prefer to wait until he's completely healthy to determine what type of offer they'll make.

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Yankees Have Interest In Jeff Keppinger

The Yankees have "renewed (their) longstanding interest" in free agent utility man Jeff Keppinger, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. People within the industry think the team may be laying groundwork to use Alex Rodriguez as the primary DH as soon as 2013, which GM Brian Cashman refuted.

"There is no discussion whatsoever about Alex transitioning from third base to DH, part-time DH, first base or any other position on the field," said Cashman. "As we approach anyone in the free-agent market or anyone in trades, we’re making sure we have insurance policies, (asking) our what-ifs?"

Keppinger, 32, hit .325/.367/.439 in 418 plate appearances for the Rays this season while playing primary second and third bases. The Yankees tried to acquire him from the Astros two winters ago. Rosenthal says New York has not spoken to the Tigers about Jhonny Peralta as they look for utility infield help, though they reportedly have interest in free agent Stephen Drew.

Rodriguez, 37, hit .272/.353/.430 with 18 homers in 529 plate appearances last season. He missed more than a month with a broken bone in his hand after getting hit by a pitch. Derek Jeter is currently rehabbing from a fractured left ankle and the team expects to be ready in time for Opening Day. The Yankees are still seeking infield depth just in case either veteran continues to fight the injury bug.

Diamondbacks Notes: Keppinger, Peralta, Fujikawa

Here's the latest out of Arizona…

  • The D'Backs are interested in free agent infielder Jeff Keppinger, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.  Keppinger hit .325/.367/.439 in 418 plate appearances with the Rays in 2012 and has a career .864 OPS against left-handed pitching.  Arizona would presumably use Keppinger at third base, though the veteran has played all over the infield in his career.
  • In another post from Piecoro, he says the Diamondbacks would use Jhonny Peralta as a third baseman if they acquired him from the Tigers.  Peralta primarily served as the Indians' third baseman in 2009 and 2010, though he hasn't played at the hot corner since and has a below-average (a -3.1 UZR/150) glove at the position.
  • While the D'Backs were one of the teams who met with free agent closer Kyuji Fujikawa, the Snakes don't "appear to be as interested" in Fujikawa as they were before acquiring Heath Bell from the Marlins, reports's Steve Gilbert.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Jeff Keppinger

Jeff Keppinger can play multiple positions and he’s a difference maker on offense — at least against left-handed pitching. The combination will attract the interest of many teams when he hits free agency this coming offseason.

Jeff Keppinger - Rays (PW)

When the Rays signed Keppinger to a one-year, $1.525MM deal in January, they expected him to be a tough out, especially against left-handed pitching. The 32-year-old has thrived with Tampa Bay posting a .329/.376/.445 batting line in 320 plate appearances. He also has nearly as many walks (20) as strikeouts (21) thanks in part to a 93.2% contact rate that ranks third among MLB players with at least 300 trips to the plate. 

Keppinger has been particularly effective against lefties, as his .411/.437/.558 batting line against them shows (103 plate appearances). This performance isn’t unexpected, either. Keppinger, a right-handed hitter, has a career line of .336/.380/.491 against left-handers. 

Teams will also take note of Keppinger’s versatility when he hits free agency this offseason. He has appeared in 15 or more games at first base, second base and third base in 2012, playing mostly at the hot corner. He has previous experience at shortstop, though none since 2010. The mixture of versatility and offense has been worth two wins above replacement in 2012, according to both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

The ability to hit left-handed pitching doesn’t always translate into substantial free agent contracts, as noted lefty mashers Jonny Gomes (one-year, $1MM), Andruw Jones (one-year, $2MM) and Scott Hairston (one-year, $1.1MM) discovered last offseason. Similarly, veteran utility players usually sign for less than $5MM. Ramon Santiago, Nick Punto, Greg Dobbs, Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald obtained two-year deals worth $1.5-2MM per season last winter.

But few players offer the versatility to play multiple infield positions and the ability to produce against lefties. The combination could drive Keppinger’s asking price to the two-year, $10MM range. Aaron Hill, Clint Barmes and Mark Ellis signed contracts in that range a year ago, and those deals could represent a target for Keppinger’s representatives at CSE. Teams may hesitate to pay starter money for a so-called utility player and if that’s the case, the deals signed by Jerry Hairston Jr. (two years, $6MM) and Jamey Carroll (two years, $6.75MM) could provide an alternate template for Keppinger. 

He definitely appears to be in line for a considerable raise and he has a good shot at a multiyear deal. It’s a notable shift in value for a player who was non-tendered by the Giants just nine months ago.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.

AL East Notes: Reynolds, Keppinger, Rivera

Joe DiMaggio hit the first of his 361 career home runs against the Athletics on this date in 1936. The present-day Yankees and C.C. Sabathia host David Price and the Rays tonight in New York. Here are some AL East-related links in the meantime…