White Sox sign Keppinger to three-year deal

White Sox sign Keppinger to three-year deal
December 5, 2012, 6:39 pm
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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.