<
>

Keppinger right fit for Sox at third base?

Jeff Keppinger could be a more affordable option for the White Sox at third base. J. Meric/Getty Images

NASHVILLE – Jeff Keppinger emerged Wednesday morning as one outside candidate who could possibly take over at third base for the Chicago White Sox.

Multiple reports mentioned the White Sox’s interest in the versatile infielder, who has played for five different teams since 2006 and six total in his major league career.

A road block the White Sox have faced in acquiring a third baseman is that the current free-agent class offers minimal options and that a number of teams are looking to add at the position.

The White Sox have not divorced themselves from the idea that Kevin Youkilis could return, but he sits out of their price range, unless they reduce payroll in another area. Keppinger, on the other hand, could be had for around $4 million a season in a multi-year deal, according to various reports Tuesday.

Keppinger fits the mold of the kind of multiple-position player the White Sox are looking for and general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday evening that the club had been making inroads toward acquiring such a player.

When asked of the challenges manager Robin Ventura will face in his second season, Hahn said that pushing the right buttons with a roster that offers versatility should provide a test.

Most of Keppinger’s experience is at second base, but that spot will obviously be occupied by fellow University of Georgia alum Gordon Beckham. The 32-year old has played 307 games at second, 145 at shortstop and 152 at third base, including 50 this past season with the Tampa Bay Rays.

As a right-handed hitter he is not an exact match for what the White Sox are looking for to balance out the offense. Both Hahn and Ventura have talked about the desire for a left-handed bat this week at the annual winter meetings.

Keppinger is a .288 career hitter over his eight-year major league career, with a .733 OPS. He had a .366 on-base percentage last season, 30 points over his career mark. He also hit a career high nine home runs in 418 at-bats last season. His career best of 59 RBIs was set in 2010 at Houston when he received a career-high 575 at-bats.

Keppinger was a fourth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2001 amateur draft and has played in the major leagues with the New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Astros, San Francisco Giants and Rays.