Well you can’t blame the Seattle Mariners for trying, but the Rickie Weeks experiment simply hasn’t worked out. The veteran was designated for assignment on Saturday to make room for reliever Danny Farquhar who was re-called from Triple-A Tacoma.
Weeks, signed to a one-year, $2 million contract this winter, has produced a .167/.263/.250 slash line in 95 plate appearances. His 53 wRC+ is third-worst on the team — minimum 50 plate appearances — and is trailed only by Chris Taylor and Willie Bloomquist. Weeks hit two home runs but only managed one other extra-base hit, a double.
The 32-year old was signed to form something of a left field platoon with Dustin Ackley. He holds a career 127 wRC+ and .828 OPS against left-handed pitching and holds a 100 wRC+ in 52 plate appearances against lefties this year. The purpose of his signing was to bring in a lefty-masher, but any value gained from his platoon splits was offset by his overexposure to right-handed pitching — a -5 wRC+in 43 plate appearances — and poor defensive play. He’s credited with -0.7 fWAR on the season.
All-in-all it may have been too much of a transition to ask of Weeks who, for the vast majority of the past nine seasons, has been an everyday second baseman. Outfield coach Andy Van Slyke has worked wonders with Ackley’s fielding and Weeks is a good enough athlete that he was expected to be competent in the outfield, or at least not disastrous. But to go from hitting everyday to pinch-hitting and platoon appearances can be difficult for some players.
Despite showing monster power in Spring Training, Weeks was never able to hit a groove this year. Hard to do without receiving regular playing time that wasn’t going to happen.
The Mariners have ten days to trade, release or waive Weeks and try to slip him down to Triple-A. It’s plausible that he would pass through waivers unclaimed given his production this year, but less likely he would accept a minor league assignment. If released, he should be able to fetch a minor league deal with the M’s responsible for what’s owed on his $2 million salary less the pro-rated major league minimum if he is called-up to the majors.
At the time of Weeks’ signing, most were applauding general manager Jack Zduriencik for making a low-cost depth move and pushing the payroll into the $120 million range. Obviously this is a move that didn’t work out and should have had the plug pulled weeks ago, but Jack Z does deserve some credit for being willing to move on as we’ve repeatedly seen the opposite from him.
To some degree, we can look at the move as swapping Weeks for Mark Trumbo, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a multi-player deal last week. Both are right-handed power bats and slated to received time at designated hitter and a corner outfield spot. Obviously Trumbo is the superior hitter, despite the poor start to his Mariner career, but the defensive improvement is likely negligible between the two.
Where the move gets a little more tricky is in how Nelson Cruz is affected. Originally signed to be the club’s DH, Cruz has appeared in 38 games in the outfield compared to 22 at DH. Limiting Cruz to DH is simply an effort to maximize his offensive value and minimize his defensive shortcomings, but also aids in preserving his health over the full season.
Cruz missed a couple games this past week with back spasms that could be related to him spending an increased number of innings in the outfield, but that’s just speculation.
Both Trumbo and Cruz will be in the lineup regularly, but at least in the early-going, it looks as if Cruz will see more time in the outfield — which is not a positive outcome. Trumbo can also play some first base and should be used to spell Logan Morrison from tough left-handers with Cruz taking DH duties.
Taking the place of Weeks on the roster is Farquhar who had been working through some early-season issues at Triple-A. He pitched 9 and 1/3 innings across five appearances, including one start, and allowed seven earned runs. Three home runs are the culprit of the high ERA and FIP numbers he has in the time spent with Tacoma — 6.75 and 6.57 respectively. Farquhar struck out ten batters compared with three walks and manager Lloyd McLendon commented that he was able to work on his control.
The re-call of Farquhar gives the Mariners an eight-man bullpen which was needed after Felix Hernandez only lasted a third of an inning on Friday night against the Houston Astros. Seattle did use an eight-man bullpen at times last year but this figures to be a short-term move as the club has Bloomquist, Ackley and Jesus Sucre on the bench. Taylor and James Jones figure to be options when the change is made.
In related news, outfielder Justin Ruggiano has cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A. He struggled in limited playing time this year too, but will give the M’s a veteran depth option.
Long story short, Trumbo is superior to Weeks, and this is a move that needed to be made. Next up on the seat that just got even hotter: Dustin Ackley and Willie Bloomquist.