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February 16, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Weeks Re-Ups in Milwaukee

by R.J. Anderson

When the Brewers selected Rickie Weeks with the second overall pick in the 2003 draft, they envisioned him morphing into a cornerstone for the franchise’s rise back to legitimacy. Today, the Brewers ensured Weeks will be around for a while, as they signed him to a five-year extension.

Since Weeks would have reached free agency after this season, the Brewers effectively purchased four free agency years. Ken Rosenthal reports the Brewers can void the fifth year of the deal  should Weeks no longer prove effective. On the surface, it appears Weeks took less money than he would have earned through free agency and still gave the Brewers the ability to opt-out early, too. Ultimately, neither side wants the version of reality where the opt-out becomes necessary, but it remains a clever addition to the fold by Milwaukee given Weeks’ history of injuries.

The $50 million heading Weeks’ way appears to be a coup for the Brewers. New Braves’ second baseman Dan Uggla signed a similar deal earlier this offseason (which also bought out four years of free agency) valued at five years and $62 million. Uggla is the better hitter (.264/.361/.493 over the last three seasons versus Weeks’ .256/.354/.445), but the differences in baserunning (Edge: Weeks, slightly) and defense (Edge: Weeks, heavily) suggest they are closer in value than perception would suggest. In addition, Weeks will be 28 this season, while Uggla turns 31 in a matter of weeks--the later years of Weeks' deal should be more fruitful by virtue of middle infielder aging curves, if nothing else.

The Brewers’ most recent allocation of funds does come with ramifications. Namely, the chances of successfully re-signing Prince Fielder just took a shot. Despite an eight-figure payroll, the Brewers are a perpetual mid-market team. Barring Fielder catching a case of cold feet and settling for sticking with the Brew Crew, he is heading for a nice payday on the open market. One could make the case that Fielder’s offensive outputs lack in consistency from season-to-season, and when combined with his place on the defensive spectrum and body type, taking Weeks over him for the next five years is a defensible position –regardless of costs involved.

Weeks’ contract looks stellar for the Brewers. It’s not too lengthy, nor too pricey, and Brewers are not assuming all of the risk. This is the type of contracts mid-market teams should strive for when locking up good, if not quite star caliber players.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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