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White Sox' decision to cut Jeff Keppinger admirable, unusual

Club uncharacteristically eats $8.5 million to give younger players an opportunity


Rick Hahn may have set a very interesting precedent when he explained why the White Sox are willing to eat the last two years and $8.5 million of Jeff Keppinger's contract:

"Really this was about focusing on the future as opposed to trying to justify a decision from the past."

On the other hand, this is a pretty big qualifier:

"It’s unfortunate. But I give (Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf) credit for allowing us not to make future decisions based strictly on economics."

It's doubtful that Reinsdorf will so easily sign off on paying a player to not work in the future, so "Buh-buh-buh-but you cut Keppinger!" will probably be quite limited in its application.

The decision to own up to a sunk cost is refreshing, although the presence of several pre-arb replacements makes the financials easier to diffuse. Just take Keppinger's $4 million salary this season and pretend you're using it to pay Conor Gillaspie, Marcus Semien, Leury Garcia and others closer to what they're worth, and that diminishes any remorse quite a bit.

Still, I wonder if the severity of this response says something about Keppinger. The front office wouldn't have had to contort itself to justify giving him Semien's spot -- just say Gillaspie took ownership of third, he doesn't complement Gordon Beckham at second, and he still could use everyday at-bats, and there you go. The DFA option is always there, whether a week or two months later.

They didn't entertain it, and that's par for the course they set during the second half of spring training. Robin Ventura spoke frankly about Keppinger's slipping grip on relevance at Camelback Ranch, and he never seemed to give much consideration to his rehab stint, except to say it wasn't a guarantee that Keppinger could complete it, given his issues before the season.

Even after the decision, quotes or tweets from White Sox teammates were difficult to find. Colleen Kane did get something from Semien:

"I try to have as much confidence as I can all the time no matter what roster moves are made," Semien said. "I learned a lot from (Keppinger). He was great to me."

But that's it. Reading through the other stories and hunting through Twitter accounts, there really isn't the usual sense of loss. Then again, the news preceded a day game, and there's been quite a bit of turnover since Keppinger was last active (not to mention the all the injury-related roster measures), so perhaps the lack of continuity dampened the shockwaves.

Whatever the case, it reminds me of an exchange from "Mad Men" two episodes ago, when Don Draper wondered aloud why the agency was paying him while minimizing his contributions. He didn't get the answer he wanted to hear:

  • Bert Cooper: You have a fundamental misunderstanding of what went wrong here. You thought there was going to be a big creative crisis and we’d pull you off the bench, but in fact, we’ve been doing just fine. Why are you here?
  • Don Draper: I started this agency.
  • Bert Cooper: Along with the dead man whose office you now inhabit.

It's probably not nearly that cold here, if Keppinger's statement was any indication:

But there isn't as much warmth, or concern, or regret from an organization that usually has a tougher time dropping the ax. Even the mothership noticed: