When the 2012 baseball season started, hardly anyone knew who Jeff Keppinger was but after a very successful year with the Tampa Bay Rays, all of that has changed. Since being drafted in 2001 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Keppinger has spent the past decade with the New York Mets, the Kansas City Royals, the Cincinnati Reds, the Houston Astros, and San Francisco Giants – spending most of his time in the minors. In January 2012, the Rays signed Keppinger for a one-year, $1.525 million contract as a utility player. Due to several Rays’ players (Evan Longoria and Luke Scott) spending time on the disabled list, Keppinger became a reliable hitter on the roster. In 2012, Keppinger batted .325 and hit 40 RBIs (Sox sign Keppinger). When Longoria returned to the line-up, other Rays players would rotate their positions with Keppinger since he was always able to put the ball into play. Keppinger would be one of the reasons why the Rays were able to compete without Longoria.
After the season ended, there was talk that the Rays would go after Keppinger once again, even when Keppinger fell down his stairs at his home, breaking his fibula. But to the surprise of many, including me, there was also talk that other teams were seeking Keppinger. After the New York Yankees found out that their third baseman Alex Rodriquez would miss half the upcoming baseball season due to hip surgery, they contacted Keppinger’s agent since Keppinger had experience playing third base. This would drive up Keppinger’s price, decreasing the chance that the Rays would be able to retain him. Then on December 5, it was announced that the Chicago White Sox signed Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million deal (Jeff Keppinger to White Sox). The White Sox had lost third baseman Kevin Youkilis to free agency this off-season and needed someone to replace him.
I am disappointed that the Rays did not go after Keppinger since he was able to hit against left-handed pitchers and has been the second-toughest hitter to strike out over the past three seasons; meanwhile the Rays have had trouble with lefties
and have high strikeout rates. Keppinger also has a career batting average of .288 while the Rays’ team average is .240. The Rays currently do not have a DH and Keppinger could have filled that position for $4 million a year, not a bad deal since the Rays have wasted millions on hitters that have not worked out. The Rays also had trouble playing against the White Sox in 2012 and Keppinger’s offense will make it even harder for the Rays to beat the White Sox. I hope the Rays will be able to find a dependable hitter to replace Keppinger and wish Keppinger the best of luck with the White Sox.