As most readers of this website know, not much has worked out right for the 2012 Brewers. Yet there are some positives to the season, a few of which I intend to highlight in the final months of the season. This concept works well when also considered as a preview of coming attractions for 2013.
At first, it might seem strange to give Rickie Weeks' 2012 performance a positive gloss. His season has become a constant battle to stay above the Mendoza line, and he's only recently found some victory. The mental toll has been obvious to anyone who has watched him at the plate in the first half of the season. As of press time, Weeks is batting a pretty meek .210/.327/.371, his worst of any season in which he's had 400 or more plate appearances.
The reason Weeks gets a pass, though, is because he's been able to work so many of them in the real game. Weeks' batting average may be unnerving, but his on-base percentage is comparatively stellar. Weeks has already drawn 56 free bases this year, 6 more than he did all of last season. His BB% of 12.7 is the highest it's been since 2007. That, added to his recent turnaround (.256/.360/.441 since June 1) means I'm bullish on Weeks. It's a good thing, too, because he's signed through at least 2014.
The question is whether the front office is equally confident. In the past three seasons, there has been one productive player that simply can't get it going. In 2009, J.J. Hardy, who had accumulated a .270/.329/.446 line in parts of four seasons at a premium position before that year's calamitous campaign, was actually demoted to delay his free agency and flipped in the offseason for Carlos Gomez. At the time, there was a real question as to whether Gomez would ever take root in the bigs, and it looked like a pretty bad return for a gifted shortstop having a down year (of course, Alcides Escobar was waiting in the wings). In 2010, Trevor Hoffman completely lost his stuff, but his expiring contract meant that there were no long-term decisions for the front office to make. This offseason, Casey McGehee, coming off a career-worst 2011 campaign, was traded just before his first year of arbitration eligibility for the erratic reliever Jose Veras.
I don't consider the team likely to cut bait with Weeks in a way similar to Hardy and McGehee, though. While an intriguing prospect, Scooter Gennett is still developing and hasn't played above AA, so there isn't a good internal option for replacement. Second base is also an inherently difficult position to find quality players for in free agency, particularly next year. But maybe the biggest impediment is Weeks' salary; the Brewers might be hard-pressed to find a team willing to gamble with the approximately $21M Weeks is currently owed for 2013 and 2014. Weeks' contract stands in sharp contrast to those of Hardy and McGehee, who were still in the early stages of their careers. Given Weeks' recent turnaround, and the probability that the Brewers would not net any significant prospects without eating a large chunk of Weeks' salary, the team would do well to give him 2013 to redeem himself.