Five (or four) more years of Rickie Weeks

On Wednesday, Rickie Weeks signed a contract keeping him in Milwaukee through at least the 2014 season. The details of the deal: $38.5 million guaranteed through 2014, and if he gets 600 plate appearances in 2014 or 1200 in 2013 and 2014 combined, and is healthy at the end of 2014, then he gets an additional $11.5 million in 2015. There is a bit of disagreement on whether 2015 is a vesting option or not, but the Brewers may void Weeks’ contract if he doesn’t reach those numbers.

Rickie Darnell Weeks.

For a frame of reference on those last two seasons, Weeks led the NL last season with 754 plate appearances in 160 games. In 2008, when Weeks played in 129 games, he had 560 plate appearances. Judging by these numbers, it looks like Weeks would need to play in about 140-145 games to pick up 600 plate appearances. Of course, those numbers could be affected by a number of changes. It is possible, though unlikely, that Weeks could fall off in the last couple years of the deal, and Milwaukee could bench him more often to prevent him from attaining the required number of at bats. Additionally, by 2014, Weeks could very well be batting third or fourth in the lineup. This wouldn’t make a radical difference, but for comparison: in 2010, Weeks, batting almost exclusively as the leadoff man, had 754 plate appearance. Ryan Braun, who played in 157 games – three less than Weeks – batting primarily third, had 684 plate appearances, 70 less than Weeks. If Weeks is batting third or fourth, he could possibly need to play in more like 150 games than 140 to reach 600. Not a huge difference, but it could mean one less trip to the fifteen day DL.

I personally feel that the money in this deal is great for the Brewers. I mentioned back in December that a five year deal worth $50-60 million seemed reasonable. Getting him for five and $50 million, where $11.5 million of that can be voided if Weeks can’t stay healthy? To me, it seems like a bargain. Weeks has a tremendous upside. He proved last year that, if healthy, he can be one of the best power-hitting leadoff men of all time. He could have another season like that this year, and then, once Fielder leaves after 2011, he could move down to third or fourth. In the third or fourth spot in the order, I can easily imagine Weeks hitting 35 homers and knocking in 120 runs.

Of course, health has always been an issue with Weeks. In his six seasons in the major leagues, he never played more than 130 games until last season. He has had problems with his wrists and hands, not exactly injuries that you can count on not recurring. But let’s go back to the money for a moment – for free agent players, teams typically pay about 4.5 million per WAR. In 2010, Rickie Weeks was worth 3.7 WAR (according to Baseball Reference), which – at 4.5 million per WAR – adds up to $16.65 million. In Weeks’ new contract, he isn’t set to make more than $11.5 million dollars in a season, even including the non-guaranteed fifth year. That is about 2.5 WAR. If you look at Weeks’ oWAR number from 2010, a hefty 4.9, it’s easy to imagine Weeks easily playing above that level, provided he stays healthy.

I love Rickie Weeks. I have said this before. He is my favorite Brewer – he plays hard, he is intense, and he gets the team going. I am extremely excited to have him for the next several seasons, particularly at a price that is good for both the player and the team. Good work, Gord Ash, Doug Melvin, and Greg Genske.

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