Astros manager Brad Mills is being non-committal about whether Jeff Keppinger has taken the second base job from Kaz Matsui, but it certainly seems like Matsui is now the backup.
Mills was asked if Matsui is now the utility guy: “I
don’t want to label it that way yet. We’re still just a dozen games into
the season. Let’s wait and see how everything plays out. I’m congnizant
to get (Matsui) out there and get him on a roll. It’s tough, but it’s
tough to not get the other guy (Keppinger) out there.”
The “other guy” is hitting .371/.450/.486. He and Michael Bourn are the only two Astros even pretending to hit, so it makes sense that Keppinger continues to get playing time.
Still, the more playing time Keppinger gets, the more he’ll start to look like what Kaz Matsui will give the Astros with more playing time himself. Ask the Reds who, after Keppinger had a fairly spectacular 267 at bats in 2007, tried to make him into a full time player the following year. The results: .266/.310/.346. Some of that was no doubt due to a knee injury he got in May of that year, but a lot of it was simply a function of him being exposed as something less than a full time player.
Keppinger more or less kills lefties, but if you give the guy 500 plate appearances, he’s not going to do much more for you than Matsui is going to do. In light of that it makes sense for Mills not to make some big announcement regarding who the starting second baseman is, play the hot hand and enjoy Keppinger’s production while it lasts.
Barring physicals and roster reshuffling, the Yankees and Reds are all but ready to finalize a deal involving right-hander Sonny Gray, Fancred’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday. The exact return has not been confirmed, but Heyman hears that the Yankees will receive top infield prospect Shed Long and a draft pick in exchange for Gray, with an as-yet unnamed third player possibly involved as well.
According to several reports earlier in the day, negotiations came down to the wire as the Yankees first had their eye on the Reds’ no. 6 prospect, 22-year-old catcher Tyler Stephenson. The Reds ultimately elected to hang on to Stephenson and send Long to New York, as they currently have a greater need for catching depth and weren’t expected to be able to provide a full-time role for the infielder in 2019. Long, 23, is ranked seventh in the Reds’ system and appears to be nearing his MLB debut after batting .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and a .765 OPS across 522 PA at Double-A Pensacola last year.
Gray figures to step into a prominent role within the Reds’ rotation, which is likely to be a mix of recently-acquired left-hander Alex Wood and right-handers Tanner Roark, Luis Castillo, Anthony DeSclafani, and Tyler Mahle, among several others. Despite Gray’s struggle to remain productive on the mound — he’s three years removed from his only All-Star campaign and turned in a disappointing 4.90 ERA and 2.16 SO/BB rate in 2018 — he might yet help stabilize a team that trotted out the fifth-worst rotation in the majors last season. If, on the other hand, the veteran righty finds the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park a little too unforgiving this year, the Reds can take some comfort in the fact that he’s due to enter free agency in 2020.