The Rickie Weeks Problem
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Rickie Weeks was an enormous part of the Brewers’ offense for many years, especially with his outstanding performances in the ’10 and ’11 seasons, in which he combined for an OPS of .825 and 49 home runs. Then, after slumping for a full season in 2012, and most of the season, prior to injury, in 2013, the team turned to Scooter Gennett, who was outstanding in 2013, but has been much more pedestrian so far in 2014. In spite of Gennett’s modest start, the Brewers seem completely committed to letting him play through cold streaks, sticking to a straight platoon between he and Weeks.
The trouble here is that Rickie Weeks is a streaky hitter, and it is likely that he would perform better given more at-bats. At first base, Mark Reynolds has actually seen more playing time than lefty Lyle Overbay. This is because, instead of a straight platoon, Ron Roenicke has let his players earn their playing time. So while Overbay would-in a straight platoon- be seeing more playing time than Reynolds, the latter’s .821 OPS has landed him more AB’s. That is not to say that Weeks has necessarily earned more playing time- his OPS is currently a paltry .580- but pinch-hitting and playing sparingly are no doubt factors in his early struggles.
This is not to say that Scooter Gennett needs replacing either. He has held his own against righties this season (.758 OPS), but the problem is deeper than that. So far this year, Weeks has just 38 plate appearances, less than utility man Jeff Bianchi (41). This may in part explain the Weeks dilemma. Rickie has always been an offense-first player, with average to sub-average defensive prowess. Additionally, that sub-par defense comes at just one position, meaning he has no value as a utility infielder. This leaves the Brewers with three out of four players on the right side of the infield who are cemented at one position. In addition to Weeks, Gennett is only an option at second base, while Overbay is only a first baseman.
If the Brewers are against giving Rickie more AB’s, then it may be time to seriously consider eating his salary, and releasing him. This is not an ideal situation by any means, but if Weeks will be given less that 180 AB’s all year, his value is virtually nil. It is therefore logical for the Brewers to either allow Weeks a few consecutive starts from time to time, or allow Weeks to seek out a team who will. Another option stems from the former, in which Weeks-given adequate playing time- performs well enough to warrant a trade to a needy team, with the Brewers likely still eating a majority of his salary.
Rickie remains a patient hitter at the plate, with several very impressive at-bats so far this season. His career hardly seems to be at an end, so it is time for the Brewers to treat it that way. With the bench seeming thin instantly given any injuries, the Brewers could really benefit from either a Weeks with more AB’s, or a fresh face.