General manager Rick Hahn completed his second major step Wednesday in stabilizing the White Sox when free agent Jeff Keppinger agreed to a 3-year, $12 million contract.
Keppinger, 32, is an exceptional contact hitter who batted .325 with the Rays but is recovering from a broken right fibula. The deal will be formalized once he passes a physical.
The expectation is Keppinger will be ready by the start of spring training without any limitations.
“Kep is the proverbial consummate professional,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said before departing baseball’s winter meetings at the Opryland Hotel. “He just knows how to hit. He’s never in trouble at the plate. I don’t care who is pitching. The thing about Kep, people don’t know how good he is on defense.”
Keppinger played 50 games at third base for the Rays while All-Star Evan Longoria was recovering from a hamstring injury. Keppinger struck out only 31 times in 418 plate appearances last season while compiling a .367 on-base percentage.
His acquisition fits the Sox’s desire to diversify the lineup with a better contact hitter who gets on base frequently. He also should stabilize the left side of the infield behind three left-handed starting pitchers.
“Those were some of the items we had on our checklist when we started looking at third-base acquisitions,” said Hahn.
Hahn, who took over as GM in October, fortified the rotation with the signing of Jake Peavy to a 2-year, $29 million contract shortly before the free-agent period started. Keppinger will take over at third for Kevin Youkilis, whose value has soared because of the dearth of quality third basemen available.
Others on the move
Nate Schierholtz, Cubs, 1 yr, $2.25M
Randy Choate, Cardinals, 3 yrs. $7.5M
Joe Blanton, Angels, 2 yrs, $15M
Sean Burnett Angels, 2 yrs. $8M
Jason Bay, Mariners, 1 year
Eric Chavez, Diamondbacks, 1 yr, $3M