ESPN's Buster Olney reported Tuesday that the Chicago Cubs "had been aggressive" in pursuit of free agent Jeff Keppinger prior to the infielder breaking his fibula falling down the stairs at his home. The injury may cool the Cubs' interest, but Brett over at Cubs blog Bleacher Nation feels Keppinger could still be a good fit.
Keppinger is expected to be healthy by spring training, and he's a guy who could compete for the Cubs' starting job at third base in 2013. The 32-year-old enjoyed a stellar 2012 campaign, where he hit .325/.367/.439 in 115 games. However, Brett feels that Keppinger's true value with the Cubs would come in the form of a trade asset:
From there, perhaps he's part of a surprisingly good Cubs team, or perhaps he plays well enough - and regularly enough - to become a nice trade chip at the deadline. At that point, he could fulfill his destiny as a great bench player on a contender, or even start if that team was trying to fill an injury-induced hole. If the Cubs had to pay a little more to sign him, everybody wins: he gets more money to be a "starter" with the Cubs, the Cubs get a possible trade chip, he gets the chance to head to a contender thereafter, and the receiving team gets their super utility player.
If the Cubs continue to pursue Keppinger, the question then becomes what type of contract should be offered. Given the age factor and the injury complicating matters, the Cubs may be able to get Keppinger on a one-year deal as opposed to a multi-year deal, especially if they offer a starting job. A one-year contract would make him more valuable as a trade piece, even if there's some regression from his numbers last season.