Remember Jeff Keppinger? You know, the only player to receive a multi-year contract from Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn last offseason.
The career utility man saw a rare starting role given to him by the Sox to start the 2013 season. After a 2012 campaign where Sox third basemen ranked in the bottom of the American League in getting on base, the team signed the Keppinger, who was coming off a season where his OBP was a stellar .367.
Last season, after being given the starting third base job out of Spring Training, Keppinger struggled. Scratch that — Keppinger did not just struggle; he literally could not hit the baseball. He hit .202 in April and .245 in May with an OBP of .198 and .260 respectively. Skeptics pointed to the fact that Keppinger was just not an everyday player. With the Sox in a funk as a team, fingers were pointed at the lone free agent acquisition.
Fans knew that Adam Dunn would strike out a lot, that Dayan Viciedo would chase breaking balls in the dirt, and that Tyler Flowers would struggle in his first action as an everyday catcher. What was not expected was Keppinger to be one of the several guys in the lineup that possessed an inability to get on base.
The three-year $12 million dollar contract that the White Sox handed Keppinger was by no means a lucrative deal. Even if the Sox are not splurging with the payroll money owner Jerry Reinsdorf is handing over, a $4 million salary hit does not have the team brass handcuffed in keeping Keppinger. The problem is that nobody wants to pay $8.5 million dollars over the next two years for utility man who is below average defensively (-4.7 career dWAR) and that cannot get on base.
With a log jam in the infield due to the emergence of Marcus Semien and Conor Gillaspie (when healthy), there is no room for Keppinger on the 25 man roster. At 34 years old, the journeyman is clearly not a part of the Sox’ long-term plans. The team needs to be willing to trade Keppinger while not expecting much in return, and eating between five to six million of the remaining contract.
Five to six million is a decent chunk of change to pay someone for not playing for one’s team. However, it is the cost the Sox should definitely pay in order to keep giving their young bats more plate appearances. All Keppinger will do, once he comes off the disabled list, is eat up indispensable opportunities that Semien and Gillaspie need. While Keppinger himself is not expected to directly help the Sox in the future, getting rid of him to allow others to develop will help.