Let’s Now Give A Shit About Rickie Weeks
You’ll never believe this, but the Mariners just signed a former Brewer. The specific former Brewer in this case is Rickie Weeks, and his contract is worth money that doesn’t matter over the minimum number of years. In the worst-case scenario, Weeks is bad, and his salary gets in the way of the Mariners’ midseason flexibility. In the best-case scenario, Weeks performs and hits all his incentives, but then Weeks might only hit all his incentives if he plays a bunch, and if he plays a bunch it’s because something happened to Robinson Cano, so in at least this one way the Rickie Weeks best-case scenario is also among the Mariners’ worst-case scenarios. This is off to a good start.
Despite Weeks’ career Milwaukee-ness, this is a surprising move. You would’ve thought Weeks would go to one of those places that has a hole at second base. Instead he joined the team with literally the best second baseman, but then, to be honest, Weeks at this point isn’t really a second baseman anymore anyway. Now, just one year ago, Weeks refused to move off second to play another position, so that bodes poorly, but that’s also in the past, and I can’t imagine Weeks just signed with the Mariners voluntarily in the belief that he’ll stick to his spot. Maybe he really is that stupid, or maybe his agent really does have that little knowledge of the greater baseball landscape, but the probability points to Weeks now being a little more open-minded. People tend to be less stubborn when they’re increasingly desperate to put off irrelevance.
Because it’s a surprising move, it’s an interesting move. This one wasn’t telegraphed, this one wasn’t predictable, and this one wasn’t some minor-league contract with an invite to Peoria. In theory, Weeks can fit on this team. In theory, it’s simple. Many of us assumed the Mariners were finished changing things up, but — and you might want to sit down — they couldn’t pass up a chance to acquire a right-handed proven slugger with a history of bad defense and strikeouts.
Weeks was the second overall pick in 2003, and because of that he’s thought by many to be a career under-achiever. Just for the record, these were the picks around him:
- 1st: Delmon Young
- 3rd: Kyle Sleeth
- 4th: Tim Stauffer
- 5th: Chris Lubanski
- 6th: Ryan Harvey
Everything’s relative, and Weeks has had his moments and seasons in the sun. He started to hit in 2006, and through 2011, he was a fine all-around regular second baseman. He was a hell of a hitter through his peak; between 2009 – 2011, Weeks posted the same wRC+ as Victor Martinez and Andrew McCutchen. But then, in 2011, the Phillies were the best team in baseball. Things have changed. Weeks got worse, as players do. He started to get booed from time to time. Though his hitting numbers picked up last year, he was also heavily platooned, swinging the odds in his favor, and he lost his regular job to a fellow named Scooter. In addition to this, defensive metrics hate Weeks at second like they hate few other players.
Weeks is no longer an everyday player. Last year’s performance shows a change in his batted-ball profile, away from putting the ball in the air, but the safe assumption here is that Weeks should only really bat against lefties. Against righties, he can be exploited, and it’s not like he’s going to gain some runs back with his glove. Weeks goes to the bench as experienced insurance. So: what does that mean?
Weeks has literally only played second in the majors. He’s played second, occasional DH, and occasional pinch-hitter. In the minors, he played only second base. The Mariners, though, didn’t sign Weeks to just back up Robinson Cano. The bench, as I see it:
- Jesus Sucre, or maybe John Baker
- Willie Bloomquist
- Justin Ruggiano
- Rickie Weeks
The catchers are just catchers, and I don’t know if they even own their own bats. Bloomquist can play anywhere, or at least he could play anywhere, but now he’s coming off surgery, and I’ve heard some talk that he might not be ready for the start of the year. Ruggiano is the platoon partner for Seth Smith. That leaves Weeks as the last guy. That means no space for Jesus Montero. It means no space for James Jones, or the loser of the shortstop competition. Space would require a five-man bench, and that would require a six-man bullpen. You won’t see a six-man bullpen with a manager who’s fond of an eight-man bullpen.
The Weeks news isn’t yet confirmed, so we don’t have any quotes from the team. As such, we have to guess at his usage. I see a little bit of lots of things. A few games of giving Cano a breather. Maybe even a couple games at third. I think he picks up some games against lefties as a first baseman, and he might sneak in at DH once or twice. Weeks could also get reps in an outfield corner — Dustin Ackley is both left-handed and Dustin Ackley, so he’s not a lock to do anything, and as things stand Ackley is also the roster depth behind Austin Jackson. Jackson is also supported by James Jones, Endy Chavez, Franklin Gutierrez, and maybe Brad Miller, but those guys won’t start the year with Seattle. I guess Miller might, but that would be as a shortstop.
Weeks provides the Mariners with a little flexibility and a little bit of pop. Let’s say the roster stays as it is, and let’s say…Miller wins the job at short. Against righties, the Mariners could start six left-handed hitters. Against lefties, the Mariners could start five right-handed hitters. You can move your own numbers around if you figure the right-handed Chris Taylor beats Miller out. The point is the team has some built-in protection. And nothing is set in stone. Injury or under-performance means different players show up. If Montero beats the hell out of the ball in Tacoma, he’ll rise. You’ll see Gutierrez if he doesn’t accidentally fall in front of a bus. If Bloomquist is toast, Taylor and Miller could potentially co-exist. Weeks himself has a guaranteed contract, but a guaranteed contract just means you have guaranteed money, not a guaranteed roster spot. Weeks won’t last if he pulls a 2013. And as much as 2014 was encouraging, 2013 was the opposite, and just a year earlier.
When it’s February, you get more than a thousand words about a bench acquisition that teams with holes at second base didn’t want. Weeks has been a really good player before, but then Endy Chavez has been a really good player before, and if it’s perspective you want, the Mariners got Weeks for a year and $2 million. That’s less than half their guarantee an offseason ago to Willie Bloomquist. This isn’t like getting a pitch-framer for cheap, because it’s a market inefficiency. Rickie Weeks isn’t a market inefficiency. He’s just a guy who hits lefties sometimes, and he has a history that takes a little longer to thumb through than most. It’s for the best, for him, he’s moving on from Milwaukee. That doesn’t mean it’s also for the best for Seattle, but it’s not like the system was overflowing with quality candidates for the one spot remaining. Weeks is good enough to satisfy those who confuse activity for improvement, and he could even be better than that.
The upside, per usual, is that Weeks plays the hero in an exciting and extended playoff run. Maybe he delivers the sort of hit or two that make him an area legend. Every champion includes bit parts no one ever expected much from. The downside is that Weeks sucks, and sucks often enough and conspicuously enough that he gets booed in Safeco, too. We could hate him, and he could hate us. But that’s just the way it is with anyone. You have to give a chance to people. Don’t decide they suck before you know them; if they suck, that’s a tough thing to keep hidden.