This—this is weird. Jim Bowden tweets the Mariners have signed longtime Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks to a one-year $2 million major league deal. Bowden suggests, or possibly reports, he'll play some second base, left field and right field.
Did I mention this is weird? Because this is a little weird. In his major league career, Rickie Weeks has never played a defensive position other than second base, where the Mariners have the best player at the position signed until we're all an age we'd rather not think about. It's peculiar, and it led me to two thoughts:
- Willie Bloomquist must not be healthy, as they're quite similar—though Weeks has a better bat and Willie is a better defender (normally).
- I really hope everyone else is healthy.
As the day pitchers and catchers report grows closer, I've been thinking about how this went last year, when the first day of baseball's pseudo-return brought news of injuries to Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma. Just look at the latest news with Weeks' previous team, as fans there woke up this morning to news of a hamstring strain to Jonathan Lucroy.
But that's just paranoia. I hope.
If we get past that, this is a pretty nifty little move. As we've mentioned in other contexts, you amass as much talent as you can and figure out how all the pieces fit together later. Weeks isn't enormously talented, at least not anymore, but he has his uses.
First off, that bat might not be toast. In 286 plate appearances, Weeks managed a 127 wRC+ last year, better than any 2014 Mariner not named Robbie Cano. That's limited time, of course, but that hasn't stopped people from gushing about what Michael Saunders did in 263 trips—and where Condor has potential (and defense), Weeks has a track record.
It hasn't all been roses for Weeks, as you can guess from him signing for $2 million in mid-February, but even in the down years of 2012 and 2013 (85, 97 wRC+s), he managed to be roughly league average or a little better against lefties.
Outside of those down years, which may not represent a steep decline as he is "just" 32, he's been quite productive. Since 2010, he's been good for a 112 wRC+, with three of the five years at 124 or above. Last year, with poor defense, he still managed to put up 1.2 fWAR in those aforementioned 286 PAs. So why the limited time?
I'll let Tom Haudricort of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel fill in the recent backstory:
When Weeks signed a four-year extension guaranteeing $38.5 million in the spring of 2011, there was a vesting clause for the 2015 option. Weeks would need 600 plate appearances this season or a combined 1,200 plate appearances in 2013-'14 for that option to vest. That possibility went out the window when Weeks missed the last two months in '13 with a torn hamstring and he was placed in a platoon system this year with Gennett, starting only against left-handers.
Generally, veterans don't lose their jobs via injury, but Weeks was in a steep two-year offensive decline at the time he tore his hamstring. After batting .230 with a .728 OPS in 2012 he had slipped to .209/.663 last season before suffering the injury.
Gennett took over at second base for the last two months and batted .324 while playing better defense than Weeks, so the die was cast. For the first time, Weeks entered a season with the Brewers as a backup player instead of a starter.
In all likelihood—seriously, I pray there isn't something else here—he'll enter his second season in a row as a backup. And he could be a good one. When he was with the Brewers, he resisted overtures from the club to put in time in the outfield, but if Bowden is reporting and not suggesting he'd play out there here (and it'd make a lot of sense at this stage in his career), he has a lot of use.
They've got the platoon in right, but let's not forget that Dustin Ackley has long struggled against lefties. Get him some time there, a bit in right, maybe a touch at first base and then at second when Cano needs a day off and this could work quite well.
Of course, with another bench piece, it seems less likely we're going to see another eight-man bullpen. Also, as the most likely way we'd see Chris Taylor and Brad Miller both making the club out of camp hinged on Bloomquist needing extra time to get healthy, and Weeks likely representing redundancy there, the loser of the spring battle likely heads to Tacoma.
But again, they can make all the puzzle pieces fit together later. And as long as there isn't one more there we're not seeing, this is a nice little move.