Via MLBTR, this slow-burn terrifying rumor from Buster Olney: No fewer than three teams—the Chicago Cubs, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Tampa Bay Rays—are all bidding for the free agent services of Jeff Keppinger, a year removed from 99 games below replacement level while hitting .280. The St. Louis Cardinals should also be in the market for an infield reserve, but if 33-year-old Keppinger is drawing interest all over they could find the market for it more competitive than they expected.
Which is not to minimize Keppinger's 2012 season, in which he hit .325/.367/.439 while playing a solid third base and a typically leaden second, or his more-interesting-than-the-average-utility-man profile. But Keppinger, who never strikes out, doesn't hit for power, and has below-average speed, is the ultimate BAbip-volatility risk, and his apparent utility is undermined by bad-to-terrible defensive numbers on either side of second base.
The Cardinals need somebody to stand in front of Daniel Descalso and behind Rafael Furcal, and Keppinger's not that guy. But if he's representative of the course the offseason might take, the Cardinals—who've shown no inclination toward bumping the payroll this year—might end up doing without. (Of course, this also might goose the trade market for Skip Schumaker.)