Word came from Ken Rosenthal this morning that the Yankees were talking to the Astros about a possible trade for Jeff Keppinger, to which my initial reaction was “why?” but upon closer inspection it may make some sense given the current abysmal state of the Yankee bench.
While the Yankees aren’t a team that requires outstanding production from its bench, outside of the 2009 championship year the team’s reserves have been pretty rough, underscoring the utility of having at least a somewhat competent bat to spell a starter. The bench was decent in 2010, given that oftentimes it had one of Marcus Thames or Lance Berkman riding pine, but the continuing atrocity that is Ramiro Pena (.233 wOBA, -0.2 fWAR) has become pretty intolerable.
Turns out Keppinger’s actually a pretty serviceable utility player. He was a full-time player with the Astros last season, putting up a respectable .332 wOBA over 575 plate appearances, good for 2.4 fWAR. His 2008 and 2009 seasons were pretty rough (.291 and .307 wOBA, respectively), though he did wOBA .385 in 2007 in roughly half a season, and seems willing to take a walk (.351 OBP last season; .339 career).
CAIRO sees him as a .321 wOBA hitter worth 1.5 WAR in 2011, although that’s also over a full season of plate appearances. For speculation’s sake let’s assume he’s more of a 0.5 WAR player, which is about what you’d hope to get from one of your reserves. Rosenthal notes that Keppinger made $1.15 million last season, is likely due for a raise in his second year of salary arbitration and shouldn’t cost more than a mid-level prospect. Also, apparently he was the most difficult player to strike out in the Majors last season, so he’s got that going for him, too.
I’m not sure I see this move actually happening, but if the Yankees can pull a reasonable deal off it’s probably worth the bench upgrade, considering they have no way of doing so internally.
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