Rickie Weeks has been the Milwaukee Brewers everyday second baseman for most of the last nine seasons, since he was called up to the majors for good in 2005. He’s been an All-Star once, in 2011, and he’s provided a bit of pop with 140 home runs. Once upon a time, he was also good for a bit of speed, but his career high of 25 stolen bases happened six years ago and for a player who will turn 31 on Friday, it’s not likely he’ll reach that number again.
Weeks hit .209/.306/.357 in 399 plate appearances with 10 home runs and 24 RBI while striking out 105 times. The batting line represented new career lows in all three categories. He’s always been a high strikeout guy, with 1,029 in 4,414 career plate appearances, and this year’s rate wasn’t out of the ordinary.
It’s just that everything else got worse. Weeks’ wins above replacement this season was minus-1.0 and he was a minus-0.4 last season.
The strangest part about Weeks’ season is that when he was platooned with rookie Scooter Gennett in June, he responded with his best—some might say only—good baseball of 2013. Weeks was the Brewers’ player of the month in June after hitting .355/.429/.677 with five homers and nine RBI in 70 plate appearances.
It was the only month he hit better than .200. Taking June away, Weeks’ numbers fall to a horrific .177/.280/.288 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 329 plate appearances.
Gennett shared time with Weeks in June and has basically taken over the everyday duties since Weeks’ injury. He is hitting .331/.368/.535 with six homers and 18 RBI in 154 plate appearances and has a WAR of 1.5. Yes, beware small sample sizes.
Gennett has been solid defensively, even if the advanced metrics don’t like him so much. According to FanGraphs.com, Gennett has an ultimate zone rating per 150 games of minus-4.3, meaning his defense costs the Brewers 4.3 runs per 150 games.
Of course, compared to Weeks this year, Gennett is Roberto Alomar by comparison. Weeks’ UZR/150 this season was minus-16.6 … which was an improvement over the minus-18 from 2012. In essence, the advanced metrics say that having a piece of plywood installed near second base would be roughly akin to the defensive contribution of Weeks.
So what’s the problem? Weeks is scheduled to make $11 million in 2014, although it appears the team will be able to get off the hook for the $11.5 million club option for 2015. The Brewers can void the final year of the deal if Weeks doesn’t make 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 1,200 in 2013-14 combined. With the injury, Weeks would need 801 plate appearances next season to guarantee the deal.
There’s not going to be much of a trade market, it would seem, for a second baseman who is scheduled to make $11 million, is coming off the worst offensive numbers of his career, is a huge minus defensively and, oh by the way, had surgery to repair a torn hamstring.
Gennett’s big flaw, at least offensively, is that like many young left-handed hitters, he struggles mightily against lefties. Gennett is 2-for-21 with eight strikeouts and a hit by pitch in 22 plate appearances against left-handers this season.
For his part, Weeks hit a—by comparison—robust .226/.328/.377 against lefties with three home runs, five doubles a triple and eight RBI in 122 plate appearances.
This is where the baseball side of things and the economic side of things don’t always juxtapose. The baseball side of things says Gennett has earned the opportunity to be the everyday second baseman in 2014.
The economic side of things says Weeks can’t earn $11 million to only play against left-handers. The Brewers do have a gigantic hole heading into 2014, but at 5-foot-10, Weeks would seem to be an unlikely candidate to play first base … or anywhere else, for that matter. Of Weeks’ 982 defensive appearances, all of them have been at second base. He never played another position in the minor leagues, either. And considering the Brewers already have a crowded outfield moving into 2014, that doesn’t appear to be an option.
Unless Gennett comes back to earth rapidly over the final three weeks of the season, general manager Doug Melvin will have some pondering to do heading into the winter.
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