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updated: 12/5/2012 11:59 PM

White Sox 'sign' Keppinger to play third base

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  • It's not official, but look for Jeff Keppinger to be playing third base for the White Sox next season.

      It's not official, but look for Jeff Keppinger to be playing third base for the White Sox next season.
    Associated Press

  • Jeff Keppinger of the Tampa Bay Rays, high-fives teammates after blasting a home run against Boston last season. CBS is reporting he has agreed to a three-year deal with the White Sox.

      Jeff Keppinger of the Tampa Bay Rays, high-fives teammates after blasting a home run against Boston last season. CBS is reporting he has agreed to a three-year deal with the White Sox.
    Associated Press

  • Jeff Keppinger, a free agent who reportedly has signed a three-year deal with the White Sox, played first, second and third for Tampa Bay last season.

      Jeff Keppinger, a free agent who reportedly has signed a three-year deal with the White Sox, played first, second and third for Tampa Bay last season.
    Associated Press

  • Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Jeff Keppinger throws out Boston Red Sox's Jose Iglesias during a game last September. He reportedly has signed a three-year deal with the White Sox.

      Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Jeff Keppinger throws out Boston Red Sox's Jose Iglesias during a game last September. He reportedly has signed a three-year deal with the White Sox.
    Associated Press

  • Jeff Keppinger of the Rays hits a two-run home run against the White Sox on Sept. 29, 2012. Keppinger reportedly has signed a three-year deal to play third base for the White Sox.

      Jeff Keppinger of the Rays hits a two-run home run against the White Sox on Sept. 29, 2012. Keppinger reportedly has signed a three-year deal to play third base for the White Sox.
    Associated Press

 

It has become commonplace with free-agent signings and trades in major-league baseball.

Details of a deal are leaked and reported in the media and later made official by the acquiring team once the fiscal and physical details are in place.

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With that in mind, let's welcome Jeff Keppinger to the White Sox.

"We're not permitted to talk about any deals until everything is final and every contingency, whether it's related to physicals or contract language, are completed," Sox general manager Rick Hahn told reporters Wednesday at baseball's winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

"So unfortunately I won't to be to get into any specifics about any rumors that are out there with any individual players."

Earlier Wednesday, CBS Sports reported the White Sox agreed to a contract with Keppinger believed to be for three years and $12 million.

Considering the 32-year-old Keppinger fractured his right fibula falling down a flight of stairs in late November, you can understand why a thorough physical is going to be done before the Sox make an announcement.

While Keppinger has been a utility infielder over most of his eight-year career spent with the New York Mets, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Houston, San Francisco and Tampa Bay, he always has been a productive hitter and reliable defensive player.

He had a breakout year with the Rays in 2012, establishing career highs in batting average (.325) and home runs (9) while also posting 40 RBI and a .367 on-base percentage.

While Hahn said, "We hope to have additional moves in the coming weeks," Keppinger is likely to replace Kevin Youkilis as the White Sox' regular third baseman.

Keppinger has played more career games at second base (307) and shortstop (178) than third base (152), but he did step in for the injured Evan Longoria last season and played 50 games at third for Tampa Bay.

Offensively, Keppinger lacks the pop found in most third basemen, but he consistently puts the ball in play and is difficult to strike out.

If you watched the White Sox surge to the top of the AL Central on the strength of home runs last season before collapsing down the stretch, you know they need a contact hitter like Keppinger.

Without mentioning the new acquisition Wednesday, Hahn said the Sox were looking for a third baseman who could "diversify the offense a little bit."

Not only does it look like Keppinger is going to replace Youkilis at third base, he also is equipped to take his No. 2 spot in the batting order.

Keppinger is a right-handed hitter, and Alejandro De Aza and Adam Dunn would be the only two left-handers in the regular lineup if A.J. Pierzynski signs elsewhere.

There was no news Wednesday on the White Sox' free-agent catcher.

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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