HOUSTON - JULY 17: Jeff Keppinger # 8 of the Houston Astros hits a two run home run in the third inning against the PIttsburgh Pirates at Minute Maid Park on July 17, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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Jeff Keppinger's 2011 regular-season debut was delayed due to winter foot surgery. He didn't get into a Major League game until May 27, but since then he's played well enough to earn what any player in his position would want: freedom from the Astros, and an opportunity to join a competitive team.
As Footer implies, this is likely the first of several moves the Astros will make as they look to shed payroll and add prospects before the deadline. They have pieces to sell, and there are teams wanting to buy.
For the Giants, in Keppinger they land a solid, contact-hitting infielder. The 31-year-old righty has played plenty of second, third and short, and he's swung a decent bat. Over the past three years, he's batted .282 with more walks than strikeouts, and he'll give Bruce Bochy options, which is something every manager likes to have. And as an added bonus, Keppinger remains under team control in 2012.
For the Astros, they get a 22-year-old minor-league reliever in Stoffel, and a 25-year-old minor league reliever in Sosa. It's an underwhelming return in a trade that's more about clearing salary. Altuve should be fun, though, as the 21-year-old infielder has recently sneaked onto prospect lists by succeeding in advanced-A and double-A. Over 153 trips to the plate with double-A Corpus Christi, Altuve has batted .361/.388/.569. Just 5'7", Altuve is limited, but he's a talented prospect, and the Astros don't have many talented prospects.
I guess this means the trading season has begun. It has begun with neither a bang nor a whimper, but something in between. Like a clap, or a guy saying "Hey!"