Jeff Keppinger: What His Signing Means for the Chicago White Sox

Matthew SmithCorrespondent IIIDecember 5, 2012

The Chicago White Sox made the splash many fans wished for at the Winter Meetings when they signed Jeff Keppinger to a three-year, $12 million contract (per Ken Rosenthal’s Twitter feed). How does Keppinger’s signing impact the White Sox, though?

Well, Keppinger, 32, provides the White Sox with two things.

First, he immediately makes the offense better.

Forget last year, when Keppinger hit .325 with nine home runs and 40 RBI. A closer look at his cumulative line shows how well he fits what the White Sox are looking for.

See, Keppinger is patient at the plate and delivers when it counts.

He has more extra-base hits (176) and walks (179) than he does strikeouts (173) in 2,459 career plate appearances (h/t @MattSpiegel670).

Furthermore, Keppinger will get the job done as the second hitter in the White Sox lineup. He is a situational hitter (career .295 hitter with 16 sacrifices with a runner on first and nobody out) and delivers in the clutch.

Over his career, Keppinger’s OPS is 17 points higher than normal with men in scoring position (.750), and he has drawn 70 walks compared to 49 strikeouts in those same situations.

Keppinger's reliability is an instant upgrade over what Kevin Youkilis brought to the table for the White Sox last season.

In addition to the offensive fit, Keppinger’s contract provides the White Sox flexibility to make more moves. See, it looks like the White Sox are going to spend more money than many thought.

When general manager Rick Hahn was promoted, he indicated that payroll would be in line with what it was in 2012. Many—including myself—thought that meant payroll would fall somewhere around $97 million dollars.

Not so fast.

MLB White Sox beat writer Scott Merkin reported Tuesday that White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said payroll would actually be “at least” $109 million, or where the Sox ended last season. Merkin later noted on Twitter that the Sox “aren’t done” following the Keppinger deal.

In fact, Merkin said in the same tweet that the White Sox “will add another infielder and a veteran catcher.”

Keppinger’s $12 million dollar contract is not too large as to prevent the White Sox from addressing those other needs and going over their preferred payroll number.

Now, Keppinger does not hit for a lot of power, and he is not the slickest fielding third baseman in the league, but he is a great signing nonetheless.

He provides the White Sox a perfect fit batting second and will allow Hahn to continue filling out the roster thanks to a team friendly contract number.

Now, what do the White Sox do with Gavin Floyd?