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Replacing Rickie Weeks: Internal vs External Options

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Now that we've had almost 24 hours to digest the news that Rickie Weeks will likely miss the rest of 2009, we're starting to see more and more conversation about the options to play second base every day. Buster Olney says the Brewers will look at what they have first:

A baseball source made it clear Monday night that the Brewers will first examine internal options. First and foremost of those is Craig Counsell, whose chances of keeping the job might improve if Mat Gamel upgrades the Brewers' offense with how he hits at third base, and Gamel mashed a homer Monday night. The Brewers, the source says, "are not looking outside yet."

(Thanks to Battlekow, who linked this note in today's Mug comments.)

At first glance, this seems somewhat illogical. Ray Durham and Mark Grudzielanek, two proven major league second basemen, are sitting at home while Casey McGehee, Craig Counsell and others compete for an everyday spot. It seems like the Brewers should already be on the phone with one of these guys. But there's three factors that complicate matters here and make it anything but a clear cut decision:

Time. Both Durham and Grudzielanek are free agents, and neither went to camp with a team this spring. That means neither of them could sign today and play tomorrow: they'd need some time to get ready. If either of these guys signed today, they'd probably report to extended spring training in Arizona on Thursday or so, spend a week to ten days there, then go to Nashville for a couple of weeks, then report to the Brewers. All that means it'd be a month before they'd be ready to contribute. By then, Alcides Escobar might be ready to make the jump to the big leagues anyway.

Age. Durham is 37 years old. Grudzielanek is 38. Even if the Brewers signed one of these guys and invested all the time and effort into getting them ready for the big leagues, there's no guarantee they'll be able to perform at a high level once they get there. Durham was projected to be around a .255/.333/.409 hitter in 2009, and Grudzielanek was about the same, around .280/.330/.400. These numbers aren't embarassing, but they're not very good either, and there's a decent chance one or a combination of the four of Casey McGehee, Hernan Iribarren, Jason Bourgeois and Craig Counsell could perform at that level.

Money. Ray Durham made $7 million or more each of the last five seasons. Grudzielanek just finished a run with the Royals that paid him $12.5 million over three years. I don't know what Grudz received for offers this offseason, but Durham turned down $850,000 and the opportunity to win the everyday job with the Nationals this spring. If it costs the Brewers $2.5-3 million to convince one of these guys to dust off their glove and come on board, that may eliminate any budget flexibility the Brewers had been saving for a move at the trade deadline.

The more I think about it, the less I like the idea of signing one of these guys. What do you think?