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Cubs "aggressively" pursuing Jeff Keppinger to add to 3B mix

Cubs "aggressively" pursuing Jeff Keppinger to add to 3B mix

This is one of those stories that got lost between my flu bug and the recent flurry of activity.  But Buster Olney re-tweeted that the Cubs have been aggressively pursuing infielder Jeff Keppinger, despite the fact that he recently broke his fibula when he fell down the stairs.

Club evaluators were aware of Jeff Keppinger's leg injury, and don't consider it serious enough to deter them. Teams bidding: TB, AZ, CHC.

I think this is a great fit.

I had been reading that there were a lot of teams pursuing Keppinger so I didn't think the Cubs had much of a shot, but it turns out they've been one of the more aggressive teams.  The others are his 2012 team, the Rays, and the Diamondbacks.

Keppinger is a utility infielder but he's a very good one, especially at the plate.  He's not a great defensive player but he has improved.  He does play one position at an above average level and that is 3B.  Exactly the one the Cubs need him to play.

Keppinger put up a line of .325/.367/.439 last season, including 9 HRs.  He's an aggressive hitter, not the kind of grind it out type the Cubs prefer (6.8% walk rate, 3.49 PPA), but he is a good contact hitter, batting .290 in his career and striking out in just 7% of his at-bats.

As for the role he would play, he would almost certainly share 3B with either Ian Stewart or Luis Valbuena.  He also has the ability to play multiple positions and moonlight as a utility infielder or even a super sub type on the days when he doesn't start.

You also can't rule him out as far as winning the 3B job outright.  There have been whispers that the Cubs have been trying to work out a deal with Ian Stewart where he'll be non-tendered and then re-signed to a minor league deal.  Presumably he and Valbuena would then battle it out in the spring, or perhaps both make the team, with Stewart playing 3B against righties and Valbuena moving into a utility role.

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  • The bone is non-weight bearing, and he'll be fine by spring. We need to sign him now.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    That's good to know. It also helps is that he's pretty slow, so you wouldn't have to worry about him losing speed.

  • Having the flu bug is bad.....but watching some of those Cubs games in 2012 was an illness also......so the Cubs will decide on a wrist injury to a gimpy leg of who plays third next season........sounds like a M*A*S*H tent will be set up during Spring Training..........seems that Vitters won't be around in 2013 with the Cubs.....he was a Hendry draft pick anyway......we could had Jason Heyward playing RF.....or Matt Weiters behind the plate.............any news where Carlos Zambrano will play in 2013?.........so far we have as our starting pitchers......Garza, Samardizija, Woods, Baker and Feldman........that is worth about 48 wins......I figure Garza will be gone by July......with Vizcaino, add another 8 wins if he is health.....need another pitcher for that starting staff.....Carlos Villanueva would be a great pick up.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Wieters was more realistic. He was the best player available but this was when draft money was being restricted so the Cubs could use it to overpay free agents instead. Heyward didn't make anybody's top 5 that year. Not sure how so many teams missed on him.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    In a word, scouting.

  • If Stewart is going to produce he will need to keep his wrist healthy. so a strict platoon is a good way to schedule rest days. If Valbuena is part of the platoon that works as well.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think it works either way. None of those guys are full time players and two of them should be utility infielders, but maybe together you can make one big Franken-thirdbaseman.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Stop that. I have nightmares of Al Franken with a glove.

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    I like keppinger in platoon with Stewart in the first half and when Vitters is ready you shift him to a supersub role or trade him. My bold prediction is he will be playing second base till Logan Watkins is ready because Barney will have been traded for pitching.

    speaking of that. If an offer was on the table Barney for Porcello + a mid-tier pitching prospect would anyone else do it? I would.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I'd do that deal in a second but I don't think the Tigers would deal Porcello straight up for Barney, let alone throw in a prospect. I think it's the Cubs that would need to add a prospect.

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    In reply to Zorb:

    Maybe. But anything can happen. We got Travis wood. Sappelt and torreyes for a year of Marshall so I don't think its too crazy to think they could get barney for porcello straight up. Especially if they resign Sanchez.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Marcel, i'm completely with you....Barney is a gold glover and still young and under control...Porcello is a #4 or #5 for the Tigers it's a totally fair trade

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Don't forget that Porcello is 3-4 years younger than Barney, also cost controlled.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    The Reds got the best player in that trade. The Cubs would be getting the best player in a Barney/Porcello trade. SP is more valuable than league average 2B.

  • Braves didn't miss in that draft heyward first round, then freeman in the second round, both our now corner stones of their franchise

  • Pains me to say this, but I think Stewart's on his way out. Just too many question marks with him. The injury, the bad make-up, the off-field issues, fact that he didn't rehab with the team.

    Like the idea of a Keppinger/Valbuena platoon. I'm of the mindset that Valbuena was a bit unlucky last season. Had a babip that evened out with his batting average, which you don't see that everyday. I mean I don't think he's gonna hit .300+ like in the winter league, but I also don't think he's gonna repeat .230 again. Took a look at his monthly stats and he actually had a pretty impressive August/Sept statline while platooning with Vitters: .284/.411/.432. Hopefully he can produce something similar while platooning with Kepp if not Stewart.

  • In reply to Furiousjeff:

    I think it's minor league deal or out...but even that makes me wonder. What are they going to do with Vitters, Lake, and Stewart? They can't all play at Iowa. Something's gotta give.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What might give: For one thing, Junior Lake played SS predominately for the Smokies last year. In 2013 you could start him at 3rd in AA, then move him up as things shake out at Iowa and on the big team. That would give him more concerted time at 3B to work on his defense there.
    I don't think he's ready for the bigs yet....very gifted, but too raw...but having a dedicated role might help polish him up.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    You could, but Lake spent last year in AA and had a solid season. He also spent half of 2011 in AA, and now he's tearing up the winter league, which is more advanced. It's hard to justify saying he's not ready to move up to at least AAA.

    My idea is if Stewart signs, it's with the agreement that he either makes the team or the Cubs grant him the option of free agency.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That sounds right. Vitters and Lake need AAA time and the big club is looking for a short time solution until a everyday level 3b presents himself by trade or through the system. A Stewart/Kepp platoon could hold down the hot corner and maybe produce some power.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Probably so. I was just offering a solution to getting Lake a lot of playing time at 3B, not SS where he already logged a lot of AA time.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I totally agree with the part about him needing to get a lot of reps at 3B and something has to give there between him and Vitters.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd much rather walk away from Stewart than bring him back on any deal.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I wouldn't rule out that happening either.

  • I like the pitching moves, and nthis infielder sounds good, but when will we start pulling in the prospects? Are they keeping their trading powder dry for landing good minor leaguers? What are we looking at there? Trades, rule 5, international signings, then what? The draft? Be nice to have the basic needs met and holes filled so when time for dealmaking comes, the team isnn't over a barrel having to address some need everyone and their brother knows they have. Previous FO seemed to put them selves over a barrel with great frequency, I always thought it was due to previous experience as a college recruiter where that is SOP. This bunch is much better at positioning and not waiting to act on their plan. Very encouraging to watch.

  • In reply to eddie35:

    Cubs prefer to trade short term guys for prospects. Guys like Garza, Marmol, and Soriano. Right now, there's only a market for Marmol and it's not all that big.

  • Are there any FA's or potential non-tendered players out their
    worth giving a 2 or 3 year contract to?

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    players coming back from rehab, gets one year deals...

    prime time players looking for 5 plus year deals with big paydays.....not in Cubs plans....

    Francisco Liriano is an outside chance for a two or three deal....

    just never know what is going on in the Cubs War Room.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Generally no. They're flyer types, underachievers. Teams tend to keep the better players. If they were producing and still not eligible for free agency, the team would have kept them.

  • There are three or four Cubs young players who might not have too much time left with the Cubs....Vitters, BJax, McNutt and Lake......it would not surprise me if Theo / Jed team could trade these guys in the near future for pitchers in the mid AA level that will help the Cubs in 2014.......the young core is now Baez, Soler and Almora.

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    In reply to CubsTalk:

    I feel the same way about Castro-he's not their guy...

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Well, except for the part that Theo himself called Castro a core guy and they gave him a 6 year extension. Funny thing to do if he's not "their guy".

    I think there's a huge misperception of Castro and his status with the Cubs more than with any other player. I blame Valentine and Brenly for that.

  • Lake is too raw. I would wait until July before I would even think
    about trading him.

  • ive been running through possible trades for a while. i dont mind trying to get yunel escobar cause he can be had for cheap after a down year/ acting like an asshole. but his bat would play down at 3rd. i like porcello but im not as high on him as you john.i truly feel we could get even more value for barney. maybe even toronto for drabek? although they have izturis and bonafacio now. so probably not an option anymore. dodgers or giants still need a 2b unless scutaro resigns. the royals as well even though giovetella raked in AAA last year. the pirates would be the main team i would try and trade with though. they need a ss and if u can convince them barney can play short they have to take a look and they have tons of high ceiling arms.

  • In reply to cubs and red sox:

    I don't think Barney is that valuable. Could probably get Drabek if Jays needed a 2B, but not Porcello.

    Had hopes for Drabek 2 years ago but they're fading fast. Already a year older than Porcello and so far behind him. Doesn't strike hitters out despite having a reputation for good stuff, doesn't throw strikes, doesn't keep the ball in the park enough. Wouldn't surprise me if they give him away pretty cheap (or for another underachiever) if he has another awful year.

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    I think for Keppinger to be interested in the Cubs, it would be the opportunity to start. He could take a bench role with a contender but if the Cubs give him a chance to play everyday, that could satisfy a personal need and increase his future market value.

    I'd be cool with him keeping 3rd warm for a year or even 1/2 year.

    I think Marcel is also spot-on: It's likely the Cubs will trade Barney. He's too valuable not to trade right now.

    I also believe the Tigers are the perfect trading partner. Porcello and Castellanos. Barney, Marmol, Clevenger and Soriano with the Cubs eating most of Soriano and Marmol's contracts. The Tigers would get a closer, 2b, DH and backup catcher-all things they need-and would sacrifice pieces that can be sold off. Basically the Cubs would buy Castellanos.

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    In reply to Dale Miller:

    Dale, if they could pull that deal...i'd be thrilled but DD is really in love with Castellanos

  • In reply to Dale Miller:

    Agreed. I think they have to promise him at least a shot to start at 3B or promise to get him his ABs some other way, maybe like DeRosa did in his first year with the Cubs. He has to know there's a genuine opportunity to pile up significant playing time here.

    I'm okay with trading Barney if they get a good deal, but if I were the Tigers I'm satisfied with Omar Infante. Not a bad fielder in his own right and he's the better hitter of the two.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly. Infante is a far better hitter than Barney. Unless the Tigers traded Infante, Barney no longer is a fit for Detroit.

  • Off topic, but two Cuban players are about to be free agents: shortstop Aledmys Diaz and outfielder Dariel Alvarez. Diaz is 23; Alvarez will be 23 in January. This from MLB.com.
    Any word on interest by the Cubs?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Here's the link from MLB:

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20121127&content_id=40434576&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb&tcid=tw_article_40434576

    Some 2011 numbers:

    Name Age PA AVG/OBP/SLG HR BB K
    Alvarez 23 365 363/404/613 20 18 20
    Diaz 21 345 294/435/433 7 58 23

    Cespedes 25 400 333/424/667 33 49 40
    Puig 20 380 330/430/581 17 49 39

    Gotta love that BB/K ratio for Diaz which is probably why they are calling him more "MLB ready" than Alvarez. But Alvarez can play all 3 OF positions and they say he has an impressive arm?

    Okie dokie.... we'll take em both!

  • Lots of b-level third baseman options for the Cubs already. If they're serious about Keppinger, then who falls into the discard pile? Stu, Valbuena or Vitters?
    It seems like the Cubs would want to hang onto Lake because of his potential. Any sense on who the Cubs would rather hold onto between Vitters and Lake?

  • In reply to baseballet:

    We'll find out about Stu in a couple of days when the non-tender deadline hits. Valbuena has value as a utility guy, so I think he stays.

    Cubs would probably like to keep both Vitters and Lake, but if I had to guess, I'd say they prefer Lake.

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    IMO Stewart and Vitters can be dealt,yeah good luck with that idea,lol. Lake needs to be playing full time at 3B in Iowa just too see what he can do defensively there. It appears everyone is seeing Barney gone and whoever fails at 3B will be looking to see what they can do as Barney's replacement. I'd be satisfied with a Keppinger/Valbuena platoon at 3B however.

  • In reply to Loren Ronzheimer:

    I think I can live with that platoon for a year as well. Not ideal, but combined they may put up decent numbers with good defense.

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    Vitters just got kicked off his winter league team --
    https://twitter.com/PWSullivan/status/273815891681087489

  • In reply to Chris Lattier:

    I'm curious as to whats going on with him. He was 0-7 in 2 games so I doubt this was strictly a "baseball" situation.....

  • In reply to Chris Lattier:

    He's 23. Kid was drafted by the Cubs and had the weight of the world thrust on him. He's worked for 6 years in the minors and finally reached the bigs, and still it's not good enough for anyone. He's probably frustrated and developing some attitude. Desperately needs a change of scenery but his stock is pretty low right now.

  • In reply to Chris Lattier:

    Thanks, I saw that. Too much to speculate on right now. Could be any number of reasons. Waiting to find out more.

  • Once LaHair went to Japan you could see a big need for a RH 1b-3b type. If anything, this says to me that Stewart is staying. I like this a lot more as a platoon type situation than non-tendering Stewart and giving Kep the job. His numbers are likely to regress, but he's always killed lefties.

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    I'd like to see if Jeff Niemann could be acquired from the Rays in a Marmol, possibly Marmol and Barney deal. The Rays have Moore, Hellickson, Shields (at least currently), Price, and they want Archer to start if at all possible. So, if Shields doesn't get traded, like to see Cubs pursue. Good piece to flip for prospects. Know Niemann is coming off injuries....still think worth considering.

  • Ok John...since you're hot with the predictions so far do you have a years/dollars prediction if Keppinger signs with the Cubs?

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