Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gird Your Loins: The Jeff Keppinger Era Has Arrived

Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally made a move at the winter meetings, as it's being reported by multiple outlets that the Sox have signed Jeff Keppinger to a three-year deal worth $12 million. This is exactly the kind of boring ass deal you should have been expecting from the Sox this offseason.

There is nothing about signing Jeff Keppinger that should be exciting. He's a 32-year old journeyman utility infielder that's coming off a career season in Tampa last year where he hit .325/.367/.439. However, there's no reason to be upset about this move either.

Keppinger is a useful player. And he's pretty damn cheap at that. He fills a hole, and I'm guessing the plan with this deal is that Keppinger serves as your starting third baseman in 2013 while keeping the spot warm for Carlos Sanchez.

Then in 2014 and 2015 he serves as a utility infielder, as he can play at second, short and third. And he's actually quite decent defensively. According to FanGraphs Keppinger was worth 4 runs saved at third base for the Rays last season. Kevin Youkilis, on the other hand, was worth -3 runs.

Now, it should be pointed out that Keppinger is a player that feasts on left-handed pitching. Which is something the White Sox aren't accustomed to having. In his career he's hit .333/.376/.487 against lefties while hitting only .269/.321/.358 against righties. Which is a problem, for sure, but it might be a problem the Sox plan on addressing right away.

Shortly after the Keppinger deal was announced Scott Merkin reported that the Sox are still talking to former Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan. If the Sox can get Hannahan on a cheap one-year deal, maybe the plan is to have a bit of a platoon at third. Of course, the problem here is that Hannahan isn't any better at hitting righties (career .233/.318/.363) than Keppinger is, but he sure does draw a lot of walks.

But we'll worry about figuring that out if the Sox actually do sign Hannahan too.

As for Keppinger, aside from being a good defensive player that kills lefties, he also makes contact routinely. In his 2,705 career plate appearances in the Majors, Keppinger has struck out 173 times. Or 49 less times than Adam Dunn did last season in 649 plate appearances. With a lineup that had a lot of strikeouts in it last season, it could be nice to have somebody who makes contact regularly in the lineup.

I can see Keppinger fitting in nicely in the two-hole next season.

So, while this isn't a move that is going to change the balance of power in the AL Central, it's not a move that's worth getting worked up over either. It's a solid signing. Plain and simple. One that makes  sense both for 2013 and the future.

The kind of signing you want Rick Hahn making.

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