The cry heard from every Brewers fan this time each year. At least that's how it's been for the past few seasons, as Spring approaches and the budding prospect of a prospect finally budding draw nearer. Of course I'm talking about Rickie Weeks, who, in this humble author's opinion, is the most overpaid second baseman in baseball.
On Thursday the Brewers and Weeks came to terms on a one-year, $2.45 Million contract, with an additional $100,000 bonus for reaching a certain plate appearance number (Weeks has been prone to injury as of late). In my opinion, this is a lot of money for a guy who has yet to produce numbers consistent on both sides of the mound. When he is hot, he's red hot. But for the past two seasons, he has had the lowest fielding percentage (.976, .975) of all NL second baseman. In 2008 he also led the league in errors at second base (15). Last year he had a .234 avg, good enough for 17th among all MLB second baseman. He was 3rd on the list, however, for MLB second basemen when it came to strikeouts. With 112 hits, he had nearly half as many as the league leading second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
The problem with Weeks is he's an amazing baseball player. Yes, this is a problem. So many times, a guy with huge potential fails to live up to expectations, only to be released or traded to another team where he finally comes to fruition. I am afraid this is going to be the case with Weeks. The guy has speed (19 SB in '08) power (14 HR, 10th among 2B) and baserunning ability. He just hasn't produced numbers that the Brewers need, and certainly not numbers that would rank him among leadoff hitters league-wide. Hopefully this will be his "breakout" year though. We're hoping. I guess Milwaukee pretty much said the same thing by only negotiating out this next season. Rickie, you're officially on the clock.
With pitchers and catchers reporting to Maryvale next Friday, the offseason is quickly coming to a close. Brewers fans have seen players come and go, and have seen a number of deals signed (Prince Fielder, Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall, J.J. Hardy, and now Rickie Weeks). I am still waiting for the most important signing, however, and that is of RF Corey Hart.
My sister-in-law, I believe, would leave my brother is Corey showed up at their front door some day. Maybe it's the tattoos, maybe it's the slight southern drawl, or maybe it's the fact that as a right fielder he had 23 stolen bases last year, showcasing surprising speed for a man of 6'6''. Last season Corey became the first player in Brewers history to have back-to-back 20/20 seasons. This year he'll begin his 3rd season as a starter for the Crew, and as long as he stays healthy, he'll top his numbers from last year. His .268 avg leaves something to be desired, and his .300 obp is near the bottom of the league rankings. With last year's 3rd Base Coach-turned-interim manager Dale Sveum moving into his new position as Brewers hitting coach, i'd expect to see Corey's average jump a good 20-25 points as he learns a little bit from Sveum's "school of patience". Look for Corey's numbers to be around .295/.340/115 this season.
I've been sitting here, trying to figure out what the hell the Brewers are doing with Corey. He's the last one on the team to get signed, as it stands right now the Crew will be meeting him at an arbitration hearing. I hope it doesn't get to that point, though, and I don't think it will. Owner Mark Attanasio has made a committment to this organization, and he said his wallet doesn't have a ceiling (we're not talking Steinbrenner numbers here, but much more than we saw during the Selig regime). The Brewers, having signed everyone else for '09, now know exactly how much money they have to work with. With the departure of Sheets, Sabathia, and Gagne, Milwaukee has (had) an extra cool $25 million laying around, and even w/ the signings of Braun, Hardy, Fielder and Weeks, there is extra money to give Corey at least $3 million for the '09 season, and sometime during the spring or early summer I could imagine seeing a 5 year deal worth around $25 million or so. This will keep Braun, Hardy, and Hart together for the next 5 years, and Bill Hall and Prince Fielder for the next two years. With Cameron and Kendall likely departing after the '09 season, this leaves pitching (which is an annual concern for the Crew) and catching a hole for the '10 season. But that's a long time away. Let's just get busy signing Corey.
In related news, because Ben Sheets has remained unsigned (after a failed physical w/ the Texas Rangers last week revealing serious problems with his elbow) it look slike MLB may hold the Brewers to the fire and force them to pay for Sheets' surgery, which will sideline him for the entire season should he decided to go through with it. I don't foresee any club signing Sheets to a 2-year contract for about $20-30 million or so, just to have him sit out the first year entirely and have next season be a doubt at all. So, even after his contract has expired, Sheets is still costing us money. What do the 2008 NLDS and the 2009 season have in common? We're paying for Ben Sheets and getting absolutely no use out of him. Lovely.