Giants acquire Jeff Keppinger from Astros, call up Brandon Belt

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The Giants made a couple of key changes on Tuesday, acquiring infielder Jeff Keppinger from the Astros for RHP Henry Sosa and RHP Jason Stoffel and calling up Brandon Belt from Triple-A Fresno.

Keppinger has been on the trade block ever since he returned from foot surgery at the end of May.  Since replacing Bill Hall as the Astros’ primary second baseman, he’s hit .307/.320/.436 with four homers and 20 RBI in 163 at-bats.  Rarely one to swing and miss, he had just four walks and seven strikeouts in 43 games.  Last year, he hit .288/.351/.393 in 514 at-bats for Houston.

The 31-year-old Keppinger will fill the hole at second base the Giants have dealt with ever since losing Freddy Sanchez to a shoulder injury.  The Giants originally picked up Hall after he was released by the Astros, but he struggled and is currently on the DL.  If Sanchez is able to avoid season-ending surgery and return next month, then Keppinger will likely slide into a utility role.

The cost for Keppinger was a pair of modest prospects.  Sosa, 25, was one regarded as one of the Giants’ best prospects, but his stock as slipped the last couple of years.  The Giants shifted him to the pen in Triple-A this year with brutal results; he had a 10.41 ERA in 17 appearances before being sent back to Double-A.  Restored to the rotation in the Eastern League, he had a 2.68 ERA and a 36/8 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings.

Stoffel, 22, was also pitching for Double-A Richmond and had a 3.98 ERA as the team’s primary closer.

The Astros should be pleased if one of the two turns into a decent bullpen arm for the team.

The Giants also recalled Belt after he hit .293/.442/.610 with three homers in 12 games for Triple-A Fresno.  He’ll likely get Pat Burrell’s at-bats in left field for now.

21-year-old catcher Hector Sanchez, who was just called up last week, was returned to the minors.  He played in three games and went 0-for-3.

To replace Keppinger, the Astros called up one of their top prospects, Jose Altuve, from Double-A Corpus Christi.

Report: Rangers sign Jeff Mathis to two-year deal

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The Rangers have signed catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year contract, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The deal is pending a physical.

Mathis turns 36 years old at the end of March and has a career .564 OPS across 14 seasons, but he is well-regarded for his defense and ability to handle a pitching staff.

The arrival of Mathis could mean the Rangers are moving on from Robinson Chirinos behind the plate, as he is now a free agent. The Rangers could go after another catcher to complement Mathis or just have Isiah Kiner-Falefa back up Mathis. Though Kiner-Falefa mostly played elsewhere, including three spots across the infield, he did rack up over 300 defensive innings behind the plate in 2018.