The case for extending Rickie Weeks

Rickie Weeks has had a pretty tough road so far in the big leagues.  Drafted second overall in 2003, there were big expectations for Rickie.  In his first four seasons in the majors, Rickie showed flashes of the potential greatness that got him such a high draft pick, but for the most part couldn’t stay healthy and, despite keeping a relatively high on base percentage, just couldn’t seem to get any hits.

In his fifth season in 2009, Weeks looked to have finally broken out.  He started off doing all the things we envisioned him doing when he was drafted.  He stole bases, he had a .272/.340/.517 line, he was scoring runs, and he was providing a non-quantifiable spark to the offense.  He just really seemed to get that entire offense going.  Then he tore a sheath in his wrist, whatever that is.  He missed the rest of 2009.  But you all know that.  In 2010, he finally stayed healthy for a full year, and gave us just about everything we could have dreamed of: a .269/.366/.464 line, 29 home runs and 83 RBIs from the leadoff spot, a second place finish in the NL with 112 runs scored, reasonably serviceable defense, and 4.9 WAR, leading all Brewers hitters.

Now Rickie is one year away from being a free agent, just like his buddy Prince Fielder.  Fielder seems to be three quarters of the way out the door already.  But what about Weeks?  There has been talk this offseason (and during last season, too) that Brewers GM Doug Melvin was working on an extension with Weeks and his agent.

I think that this is a great idea.  However, I also think we need do it soon.  Imagine that Weeks has another year like last year – or even better, a year that surpasses last year.  Imagine that Prince Fielder is traded, Weeks is moved into the third spot in the order in front of Braun, and hits 35 home runs and drives in 120 RBIs.  Or, maybe he stays as a leadoff hitter, and continues to flirt with breaking the leadoff RBI record, while getting on base at a .375 clip.  What would that do to his free agent stock?

Powerful offensive second basemen are a rarity in this game.  Despite the fact that he was recently traded for next to nothing, Dan Uggla figures to do well on the free agent market next year.  Chase Utley is a perennial MVP candidate, as long as he is on the field.  Jeff Kent could make the hall of fame, even though his career offensive numbers are comparable to those of Jim Edmonds – very, very good, but would he be a legitimate HOF candidate if he played first base?

What worries me is that if we wait another year and try to sign Weeks as free agent, he could have a huge season and drive his price up significantly.  If Weeks plays another full season at the level that he played last year, he’ll be coming off two straight highly productive, healthy seasons, and he’ll be right in his prime.  In this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately year, it seems possible that the price for Weeks, and the demand for his services, could ascend to levels beyond the Brewers reasonable price range.

That is why I am in favor of trying to extend Weeks now, when, quite frankly, his track record doesn’t give him a ton of leverage.  At this point, Weeks is still a potential star who hasn’t really been able to prove that he can stay healthy.  Let’s say the Brewers offer him a deal in the 5 year, 50-60 million dollar range.  That is an amount that is certainly affordable.  Weeks would be locked up for all of his prime years.  At that price, if Weeks were to continue to struggle with injuries, it would be a drag on the budget, but it wouldn’t be backbreaking.  Think of it this way – he’d be making about the same amount of money we paid Jeff Suppan to lose games for us.  If we get lucky, Weeks will never have significant injury problems again, and he will develop into the superstar that we envisioned when he was drafted.  I’m just too used to seeing our best players leave via free agency because we can’t afford to re-sign them.  It’s probably going to happen to Braun in a few years – let’s not have it happen with Weeks next season.

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One Response

  1. […] is, I like Rickie Weeks. I’ve already gone over why I think the Brewers need to extend him – he apparently set a spring training deadline today […]

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