The third basemen of the past few seasons haven’t looked so hot for the White Sox. General manager Rick Hahn has hopefully bolstered that position with today’s signing of Jeff Keppinger.
Keppinger signed a three-year, $12 million deal, which is the first multi-year deal of his career. He’s played with a few Major League teams and spent time with the Kansas City Royals when Buddy Bell was employed there. Despite having surgery earlier this offseason on a broken right fibula suffered when he fell down the stairs in his home, he was hotly sought after. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that the Cubs, Yankees, Rays, Diamondbacks and Marlins were all interested in signing him.
Looking at his 2012 season, it’s not hard to see why. In 115 games and 418 plate appearances, Keppinger hit .325 and struck out just 31 times. He had an OPS of .806, which is in the above average range. Looking at his career numbers, he’s a .288 hitter who rarely strikes out (173 strikeouts for his career). His career OPS is a bit lower than his 2012 season at .733, but that’s still average. Keppinger is tough to strike out, and that’s a huge plus. Some of my Twitter followers put it into perspective: Keppinger has 173 strikeouts in his entire career; Adam Dunn had 222 strikeouts in 2012.
Last season, White Sox third basemen posted a .201/.286/.314 combined line, compared to Keppinger’s .325/.367/.439 line last season. He’s a significant upgrade compared to what we had at third last year, and he hits very well off left-handed pitchers, posting a career .333/.376/.487 line against lefties.
Defensively, Keppinger is not the greatest, but he’s not horrible. He’s an average defender which is better than what we have in our system. Coming off this leg surgery, his range will suffer a little bit.
The third-base market this offseason sucks, as Fangraphs expertly put it, so a three-year deal for $12 million isn’t horrible. If something better comes along during his contract, Keppinger is still a good utility player, as he has experience at every infield position.
You can follow him on Twitter too, if that interests you.