White Sox sign Keppinger to three-year deal

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White Sox sign Keppinger to three-year deal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The diversification of the White Sox offense began Wednesday with the free agent signing of infielder Jeff Keppinger.
Keppinger -- whose reported three-year, 12-million deal is pending a physical -- is expected to take the reins in a potential third base platoon for the White Sox. The team also hopes he can help diversify an offensive attack that thrived on the long ball in 2012.
Though industry sources confirmed the signing, the White Sox cannot officially comment until Keppinger passes his physical. The deal for Keppinger -- who should be ready for spring training even though hes in a walking boot after breaking his fibula -- wont be finalized until early next week.
But the move wont be the last made by the White Sox this offseason, general manager Rick Hahn said. Late Tuesday, a report indicated the club also has interest in former Cleveland Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan.
We are not at the point where we feel were done, Hahn said. Were still in talks with a number of different clubs, as well as free agents and may well have additional moves in the coming weeks.
Manager Robin Ventura, who last season sought diversity in his lineup down the stretch, would welcome those moves.
Last season, the White Sox averaged 4.6 runs per game as they blasted 211 homers the eighth highest total in franchise history. But the same group produced only nine homers and scored 31 runs over a 2-10 stretch in late September that ultimately cost them an American League Central title.
The hope is Keppinger, one of three players with more combined extra-base hits and walks than strikeouts since 2007 along with Albert Pujols and Dustin Pedroia, brings a different type of offense with him to the South Side. Whereas former third baseman Kevin Youkilis owns a career .482 slugging percentage, Keppingers is .396.
Though Hahn said earlier this week he hoped to bring Youkilis back, a source said a deal was never close though both sides had established parameters. The White Sox informed Youkilis late Tuesday they needed an answer by early Wednesday or they would seek a backup plan.
Weve had real, honest, direct and clear communication with the representatives for our free agents that are out there, Hahn said. Theyve known what weve been planning to do prior to it even hitting Twitter. Weve had a sense of what it would take to sign them or kind of what their expectations and time frames are.
The White Sox wanted Eric Chavez to be a part of their plan until he opted to play near his offseason home and sign a one-year deal for 3 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Though Keppinger has been in a walking boot since he broke his right fibula late last month, the White Sox moved forward. Three separate sources, including two outside the organization, feel Keppingers injury wont prevent him from being ready by the start of spring training.
Keppinger made a strong impression on White Sox assistant GM Buddy Bell when he managed him for a short time in Kansas City in 2006. Not only does Keppinger play solid defense, he has a .288.337.396 slash line and has struck out once every 14.21 at-bats for his career. But the White Sox also know theyll need a complement at third base as Keppinger has never had more than 514 plate appearances in one season.
Im not sure any one player would address all those things, but one of the themes weve hit on this offseason are wanting to try and diversify the offense a little bit, have some players that can put the ball in pay a little more, get on base at a little higher clip perhaps, as well as the defense being important to us which is always something were cognizant of, Hahn said. But especially in a situation where we may have at least three left-handed starters, youre going to want to be pretty strong on the left side of your infield defensively, at least on the days that those guys start. Those were and are some of the items we have on our checklist when we started looking at third base acquisitions.

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, four pitchers

The White Sox agreed to one-year contracts with five players on Friday, including a $12-million deal for Todd Frazier.

Frazier established a franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in 2016 when he blasted 40 in his first season with the White Sox. A free agent after the 2017 season, Frazier hit .225/.302/.464 in 666 plate appearances, drove in a career high 98 runs and produced 2.4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com. 

Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez is set to earn $5.9 million this season. The team also agreed to deals with relievers Dan Jennings ($1.4 million), Zach Putnam ($1.1175 million) and Jake Petricka ($825,000).

The White Sox acquired Frazier in a three-player trade from the Cincinnati Reds in December 2015. It's expected they would try to trade Frazier, who has hit 104 homers since 2014 and participated in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby three consecutive years, before the Aug 1 non-waiver trade deadline as part of the club's rebuilding efforts. 

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Gonzalez went 5-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 24 games (23 starts) after he was signed to a minor-league deal in early April. 

Jennings posted a 2.08 ERA in 60 2/3 innings. 

Putnam had a 2.30 ERA in 27 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts before he had surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. 

Petricka was limited to nine appearances before his season was ended by hip surgery.

Both Petricka and Putnam are expected to be ready for spring training.

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

Top White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada impresses club at minicamp

It was a limited look, but Yoan Moncada made a strong first impression on the White Sox this week.

Acquired from the Boston Red Sox last month in the Chris Sale trade, Moncada arrived in Glendale, Ariz., earlier this week with the franchise hopeful he'd offer a glimpse of the skills that earned him the designation as baseball's top prospect.

Moncada didn't disappoint, either, as he had White Sox evaluators excited throughout a three-day hitters camp. Whether it's his physicality, how he carried himself or his baseball IQ, White Sox staffers couldn't have been happier about their first experience with their new prized possession.

"(Moncada) looks like a linebacker, but he moves like a wide receiver," player development director Chris Getz said. "He's got good actions. He's obviously a switch hitter. He's got power. He can hit. He's got a good smile. He seems to be enjoying himself out here, he interacts well with his teammates.

"So far it has been very impressive, and we look forward to seeing more."

Hitting coach Todd Steverson said Moncada, 21, looked every bit the part when he first observed him from across the hall at the team's facility. Steverson spoke to friends in the scouting community and wasn't the least bit surprised when he encountered the 6-foot-2, 205-pound second baseman. Moncada was just as impressive on the field with his skills and effort, Steverson said.

"This is a large specimen right here," Steverson said. "He's put together pretty well.

"On defense it looks like he has some really good hands.

"He got in the box and he hadn't swung for a while. But still, you could tell he had good hands going through the zone, has a nice approach and wants to work real hard."

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Moncada's fancy tools have been well publicized since he received a $31.5-million signing bonus from the Red Sox in March 2015.

MLB.com graded Moncada's hit tool at 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale while his base running is 65 and arm is 60. Moncada's power received a 55 grade, and his fielding is 50. Moncada received an overall grade of 65, which suggests he has the ability to be a perennial All-Star and worth 4 Wins Above Replacement, according to fangraphs.com.

But the White Sox weren't just impressed with Moncada's physical ability.

One of manager Rick Renteria's top objectives for the camp was to emphasize fundamentals and what's important to the team. Renteria wanted to identify specific game situations and how players are expected to handle them so they're well prepared for the future. Moncada handled that area well, too.

"Yoan is a very knowledgeable baseball player who has experience on a multitude of levels," amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler said. "In the brief time we had with him this week, he showed a tremendous ability to drive the ball the opposite way as well as drive balls to the gap and out of the ball park from both sides of the plate. That ability will help him handle and any all situations that Ricky asks him to do at the plate. Defensively his hands and feet are very good and will have no problem there. He's a bright hard-working kid that is part of a bright future for the organization."