Jeff Keppinger

Yankees weighing Jeff Keppinger, Kevin Youkilis for third base

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While the Yankees have at least touched base with free agent Kevin Youkilis, Jeff Keppinger appears to be their primary target at the moment. Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that the two sides met yesterday and that the Bombers’ interest in Keppinger is “very strong.”

Keppinger is the more realistic target, given that Youkilis is the top third baseman on the market and is drawing interest from wealthy Dodgers and Phillies teams that have full-time jobs open for him. Keppinger would likely be more open to serving as the stopgap at third base while Alex Rodriguez rehabs from hip surgery and then moving into more of a utility role. Keppinger, though, could command a two-year contract from another team, while the Yankees would much prefer to hand out a one-year deal.

The 32-year-old Keppinger is coming off a great season in which he hit .325/.367/.439 with nine homers and 40 RBI in 385 at-bats for the Rays. He’s a lifetime .288/.337/.396 hitter in 2,459 at-bats. He is much better against left-handers than right-handers, but that’s not such a bad thing in the lefty-heavy Yankee lineup.

Youkilis hit .235/.336/.409 with 19 homers and 60 RBI in 438 at-bats for the Red Sox and White Sox last season.

Update: FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the price for Keppinger is now $8 million for two years. That will give the Yankees pause, considering that their aim is to reduce payroll for 2014.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.