Rickie Weeks is coming off the best season of his career in 2010. He's also entering his final year before hitting the free agent market after the 2011 season. With the team having traded top prospect and second baseman Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum, it's now more imperative than ever for them to sign Weeks to a long-term deal.
Prior to 2010, Weeks had never played more than 129 games in a season. Many speculated that if he could stay healthy, he could put up All-Star type numbers and that's exactly what he did. In 160 games, he hit .269 with a .366 on-base percentage. He scored 112 runs while hitting 29 home runs and knocking in 83. He also led the league in being hit by a pitch, 25 times.
Although he only stole 11 bases, he has the speed to steal 30 or more a season. Former manager Ken Macha didn't use the running game as an effective weapon, something new manager Ron Roenicke plans on doing a great deal. With sluggers like Hart, Braun, and Prince Fielder hitting behind him, the running game isn't a necessity for Weeks, but it's an added weapon that should prove more effective than not over the course of the season.
Weeks can expect a significant raise for his final arbitration year. He made $2.75 million last year but should see his salary easily top $4.5 million this year. Still young (he won't turn 29 until September), he still has several more productive seasons ahead of him, barring any more significant time spent on the disabled list.
With the very likely scenario of Fielder leaving after this season, locking up a player like Weeks becomes all the more important. The power he showed in 2010 allows him to be moved into a better run-producing position in the batting order. If Carlos Gomez could ever get on base more consistently, Weeks could be moved down in the order to give better protection to Fielder and McGehee.
If, like most feel, Gomez never materializes into a top-of-the-order hitter, Weeks can remain in the lead-off spot and continue to be the spark plug for the Brewers' offense.
Lawrie's departure, along with the haul sent to Kansas City for Zack Greinke, have depleted the Brewers' farm system. While Scooter Gennett and Eric Farris are both still young enough where a career in the Majors isn't out of the question, neither has the tools to be a star that Weeks possesses.
The Brewers have done a great job locking up their young core to long-term deals over the past few seasons. Ryan Braun, Yovani Gallardo, and Corey Hart are all signed through at least the 2013 season. Others like Casey McGehee, Jonathan Lucroy, and John Axford are all under team control until at least the middle of the decade.
Weeks seems open to the idea of remaining with the Brewers. The two parties have had ongoing conversations about an extension since the Winter Meetings in early December. It's likely a deal will get done before Opening Day 2011. He'll be a key piece for the Brewers this season, but also going forward in the post-Prince Fielder era.
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