Andrew Friedman loves depth. Loves it. While the Tampa Bay Rays can't compete with the Yankees or Red Sox for top free agents, they have still managed to stay competitive through acquiring undervalued players and building deep, strong rosters. If the Rays suffer injuries to a handful of their starters, no problem, they have multiple top pitching prospects that can fill in and keep the Rays in contention.
Yesterday evening, the Rays beefed up their bench and depth by signing infielder Jeff Keppinger to a one-year, major-league deal. The Rays already had a rather deep bench -- Elliot Johnson, Reid Brignac, Sam Fuld, and Brandon Guyer all look like possibilities -- but Keppinger fills in a hole:
Out of Keppinger, Brignac, and Johnson, Kepp is the best player. His defense may be mediocre to poor, but he makes up for it with his bat. He has a good walk rate, doesn't strike out much, and he posted a .295 wOBA last season while struggling through two separate injuries (foot and wrist). That was a down year for Keppinger, too; he is projected to post around a .318 wOBA, and he posted a .332 wOBA in 2010.
Also, Keppinger is a right-handed hitter who mashes lefties. He has a fantastic career line against lefties (.368 wOBA), while his line against righties is much less thrilling (.298 wOBA). Considering the Rays have recently signed a number of hitters with issues against left-handed pitching, doesn't it make sense to have a bench player that's good against them? (DRaysBay)
It's rare that the Rays sign a bench player that's not good at defense, but in this case, it seems like Keppinger's bat outweighs his negatives. He's not a perfect player, but he will come cheap and give the Rays a more well-rounded bench.