Rickie Weeks has been a polarizing figure since arriving in Milwaukee. Some people love him for his ability to get on base, quiet leadership and tough performances. Others are not as fond due to his underperforming expectations, injury-proneness, and iffy defense at times.
Still, Weeks is one of the highest paid players on the team this season despite stepping aside while Scooter Gennett sees most of the playing time at second base. The team also holds an $11.5 million option on him for the 2015 season. There are vesting clauses, none of which he'll meet, making it a true team option with a $1 million buyout. Is there any way the team picks up that deal?
The value of one win above replacement in free agency keeps rising as players keep getting paid more. Now, it stands around $7 million. That means that Weeks would have to be worth about 1.5 WAR to be worth picking up his option. Frankly, that doesn't seem like it will cut it.
If the Brewers had huge funds like the Dodgers or Yankees they might be convinced to pick up Weeks' option if he were likely to be worth around 2 wins. The Brewers don't have that kind of money, though, and need to maximize their dollars where they can. If Gennett is slated to play most games at second moving forward, Milwaukee can't afford Weeks.
That means either Weeks needs to have a real nice season in 2014 and re-earn the full-time starting spot, or Scooter Gennett needs to fail spectacularly. The latter case might still not be enough if Weeks isn't also playing well. Weeks hasn't gotten off to the greatest start this year, with one single in ten plate appearances. Last year he played 104 games with a 663 OPS, a number which has dropped each of the last five seasons.
For Weeks to have his option picked up, he'll have to earn full-time starting rights at second base while posting a season that wold alleviate any doubt the Brewers might have about him moving forward. Fortunately for him, the Brewers do have some money to play around with for 2015: The team has just $52 million owed with Marco Estrada the only notable arbitration-eligible player. However, Yovani Gallardo also has an option that is more likely to be picked up by Milwaukee. If the team keeps both Gallardo and Weeks, their financial flexibility wanes.
Even if Gennett shows he can not play everyday, the Brewers might just be better off chasing a cheaper free agent option next year. Weeks is fortunate that pickings are slim, with Jed Lowrie the biggest name available who can play second. Ben Zobrist can also be a free agent if his option isn't picked up. Both those guys would likely cost more than the Brewers would want to pay, anyway. After them, it's an Alexi Casilla, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Ellis graveyard.
Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that Weeks will no longer be a Brewer. The team could bring him back on a cheaper contract. They may face competition from teams like the Yankees, however, who have deeper pockets and no long-term plan at second.
Unless Weeks starts hitting like an All Star again suddenly, his option is as good as declined. Maybe the Brewers will bring him back on another deal, but there will be teams who can outbid them. Either way, Weeks' performance in 2014 will have big financial ramifications for him moving forward.