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MLB Winter Meetings: Teams Fill Roster Spots as Big Names Yet to Sign

Jeff Keppinger

Day three of baseball’s Winter Meetings still didn’t bring any movement on prize free agents Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, but a resolution for at least one of them could be coming sometime this week. In the meantime, there were still some minor moves to help teams keep filling out their rosters and addressing their needs.

Jeff Keppinger

Jeff Keppinger should help the Chicago White Sox at the hot corner. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Among today’s signings was the Chicago White Sox agreeing to terms with third baseman Jeff Keppinger to a 3-year, $12-million deal. The White Sox have been in need of an offensive upgrade at the position for the last year. Even bringing in Kevin Youkilis at the trade deadline last summer didn’t work out quite as well as the team had hoped. Keppinger is coming off a career year with the Tampa Bay Rays as he hit .325. Even if he hits closer to his career average of .288 next season, it will still be a huge upgrade over the .201 Chicago’s third basemen hit all season. Though he won’t add much power to the White Sox’s lineup, he gets on base (.367 OBP in 2012) and doesn’t strike out much.

Another third baseman is also off the market with Eric Chavez heading to the Arizona Diamonbacks for one year and $3-million. Chavez will continue his career out west after playing 113 games for the New York Yankees last season, the first time he cracked the century mark since 2006. Plagued by injuries for years, he will share time at third with Chris Johnson. Last season, he hit .281/.496/.845 with 16 homeruns in 278 at bats. He will also provide a reliable defensive option.

These two signings also impact Chavez’s former team in New York. With the recent news that Alex Rodriguez will miss a significant portion of the season due to hip surgery, the Yankees are in need of someone to handle third base duties in his absence. Keppinger and Chavez were two of the better options for the Yankees, but now could be looking at Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, or just letting Jayson Nix continue to fill in after playing 22 games their last season and hitting .308 while at that position.

In a desperate attempt to improve their offense, the Seattle Mariners are taking a chance on rejuvenating Jason Bay’s career. The 34-year-old signed a one-year deal for around a million dollars. Bay is from southwestern Canada, went to college in Gonzaga University in Spokane, and still lives in Washington, so this is a homecoming of sorts. Between that and the Mariners moving the fences in at Safeco Field, the teams is hoping Bay can improve on his disastrous performance with the New York Mets. In three seasons, he hit .234/.318/.369 and had just 26 home runs after hitting 36 in the previous year with the Boston Red Sox. Seattle is still in on other outfielders like Hamilton, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn, so their hope is that Bay does not represent their best outfield addition, but someone who can contribute on a part-time basis.

The top left-handed reliever on the market has a new home in California as Sean Burnett signed with the Los Angeles Angels for about $9.5-million over two years. The 30-year-old was a key member of the Washington Nationals’ bullpen in 2012, notching 31 holds in 70 appearances. His 2.38 ERA was the second-lowest of his career. In Los Angeles, Burnett will likely join Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs in a setup role ahead of new closer Ryan Madson.

The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, also signed a top left-handed reliever, filling one of their biggest needs. They agreed with Randy Choate to a deal for 3-years and $7.5-million. Even at 37, he has still topped 80 appearances in two of the last three seasons and last year, lefties his just .158 against him. Choate will team with Marc Rzepcynski as the Cardinals’ late game lefty options.

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