Mets, Royals Swap Second Basemen

Barring a complete collapse, the Mets are assured of winning the National League East. But that didn’t stop New York from doing some minor tinkering on Wednesday, acquiring another infield option. In an exchange of Triple-A second basemen with big league experience, the Mets picked up Ruben Gotay from the Royals for Jeff Keppinger.

New York has started Jose Valentin, the since-traded Kaz Matsui, Chris Woodward and Anderson Hernandez at second base this year. Gotay, 23, will head to Triple-A Norfolk for now but could get a look later in the season if Valentin’s bat cools off. Gotay opened 2005 as Kansas City’s starting second baseman, but didn’t hit as hoped, was optioned to Triple-A Omaha that August and stayed there this year. In 87 games this season, he batted .264/.322/.404 with nine homers and 43 RBIs. Gotay’s best tool is his line-drive bat, but it’s far from exceptional. His power is fringy, he’s not a basetealing threat and he’s a limited defender with below-average arm strength, hands and range. In 130 big league games, he has hit .242/.297/.355 with six homers and 45 RBIs.

Keppinger, 26, signed as a fourth-round pick out of Georgia in 2001, and he has hit .300 or better in each of the last four seasons. But all that has earned him is a 33-game stint in New York during 2004, when he hit .284/.317/.379 with three homers and nine RBIs. He would have gotten another opportunity in 2005, when he hit .337 in Triple-A, but he broke his left kneecap in mid-June when a runner took him out while he was trying to turn a double play. This season, Keppinger has batted .300/.353/.359 with two homers and 26 RBIs in 87 games at Norfolk. Keppinger’s game profiles similar to Gotay’s. He’s a better hitter for average, but he focuses on contact to the exclusion of power and doesn’t run well. He’s not a standout defender at second base, either. Kansas City assigned him to Omaha.

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