MLB Free Agency: Is Jeff Keppinger a Fit at Third for the Chicago White Sox?

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MLB Free Agency: Is Jeff Keppinger a Fit at Third for the Chicago White Sox?

The Chicago White Sox are in dire need of a third baseman and Jeff Keppinger may be the guy for the job. Keppinger, 32, would make sense for the White Sox on a couple of different levels as a replacement for Kevin Youkilis.

For argument's sake, let’s operate under the assumption that Youkilis is far too expensive for the White Sox. CBSSports.com posted last week that Youkilis may command a “two-to-three year deal worth $9 million to $11 million per year.”

In a separate article on CBSSports.com, Jack Moore suggested that Keppinger may be in line for a $10 million contract over the course of two years. With a contract valued at 50 percent of what Youkilis would be making, Keppinger would be more palatable for Hahn and the White Sox.

More important than the financial ramifications, Keppinger is also a fit thanks to his offensive abilities. In fact, he could project as a No. 2 hitter for the White Sox.

A look at the mechanics of Keppinger's swing.
 

Keppinger finished the 2012 season with a .325 batting average, nine home runs and 40 RBI in 400 plate appearances. Further, his on-base percentage (.367) is better than what Youkilis (.336) provided the White Sox last season.

He does not hit for as much power as Youkilis does, but is that what the home run heavy White Sox need from the second spot in the order? No, it is not.

A detailed look at some of his career splits—courtesy of Baseball Reference—indicates what he could bring to the White Sox batting second.

  • .295 BA with 16 sacrifices with a runner on first and nobody out in 212 career plate appearances (CPA)
  • .303 BA in 562 CPA with the bases empty
  • .300 BA in 769 CPA with the game tied
  • .302 BA in 1411 CPA when his team is within one run
  • .289 BA in 212 CPA with the bases empty and only one out
  • 173 strikeouts in 2705 CPA

Even though Keppinger has not had an overwhelming number of career plate appearances, he has nonetheless proven that, when given the opportunity, he produces.

Now, for all the positives, Keppinger has his weaknesses.

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Moore pointed out in his article that Keppinger struggles versus right-handed pitchers, posting a career .269/.321/.358 slash line against them.

Moore also argued that Keppinger is a slap hitter who relies on finding the holes in the defense versus finding the gaps. That, Moore suggested, should put a damper on the excitement surrounding Keppinger's successful 2012 season.

It must also be noted that Keppinger has a broken leg, which does not help the situation. CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider Dan Hayes points out, however, that he should be ready by the time spring training rolls around.

Shortcomings aside, Keppinger has the ability to positively impact the White Sox without setting the team back fiscally.

As the Winter Meetings enter their second day in Nashville, Hahn is surely exploring every trade avenue he can to make the White Sox better. He is in the fortunate position of being able to entertain and propose many trade scenarios thanks to a wealth of starting pitching.

If Hahn cannot get anything worked out to fill the hole at third over the next few days, however, Keppinger may be there for the taking.

See, Keppinger would—without question—be a fit for the White Sox.

 

@MatthewSmithBR

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