According to MLB Network’s Jim Bowden, via Twitter, the Seattle Mariners have agreed to terms with veteran Rickie Weeks on a one-year deal worth $2 million, pending a physical.
Weeks, 32, has spent his entire career as a second baseman and a below-average one at that. He has produced at the plate, too, despite a career .249 batting average, thanks to good power and solid on-base skills outside his tendency to strike out at a rate of 23 percent.
Weeks was originally drafted and signed by the Milwaukee Brewers where GM Jack Zduriencik and scouting director Tom McNamara worked for years running that club’s scouting department, so the player isn’t an unfamiliar face for the Mariners in that manner.
How Weeks fits in Seattle — and how Seattle fits for Weeks — is unclear; Weeks is a right-handed hitter who has yet to play a single inning in the outfield or even third base. The idea here is that Weeks could be used as some sort of utility option, but he declined the opportunity to learn the outfield last spring, even though that was his best chance to get more playing time since Scooter Gennett took the second base job.
I imagine Weeks has changed his tune on that front, since Robinson Cano is inked in at second base for 150 games or more and the same goes for Kyle Seager at third base.
Weeks can hit some, so at $2 million, this is the kind of deal we may look back on in six months as one of the better acquisitions of the offseason. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Weeks gets acclimated to the outfield and plays almost regularly at some point in 2015. He finished last season at .274/.357/.452 in 286 plate appearances, primarily versus left-handed pitching. He’s not exactly the ideal platoon-style bat, but he will take a walk and still brings pop to the table. His .370 wOBA versus lefties is impressive and his .381 mark in 2014 suggests he’s not done producing.
Weeks runs well, though he’s not likely to swipe more than 8-12 bags, and could get 10-15 starts at second with a few shots per week in the outfield if he’s performing at the plate. I don’t foresee any true platoon — not with Weeks and Dustin Ackley in left or with Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano in center — but some semblance of a time share will show itself to some extent.
He’s been solid versus southpaws for most of his career, but has shown he can be useful versus right-handers, too, including a .351 on-base mark a year ago.
The presence of Weeks, barring injury to another option, hurts the chance James Jones makes the club, and may close out Willie Bloomquist’s career, even though he’s due $3.2 million himself. If Lloyd McClendon goes with seven relievers rather than eight, there’s room for one of the above, but not both.
The M’s roster is stronger with the acquisition of the veteran, even considering the questions about his defensive role and value. The most likely scenario for Weeks is in left field versus left-handed starters, especially since it appears Ackley is developing an actual split worth using — he posted a .259/.310/.442 mark versus right-handers in 2014. Of course, he could fit better defensively in right field with Ruggiano or Smith playing left. Weeks’ outfield skills are a blank canvas right now. I’d advise getting him used to right since Smith has played a lot more left field and he and Ruggiano can cover more ground in spacious left field at Safeco.
It’s a bit of an odd landing spot for Weeks, since there is no path for him to play second base and he’s refused to learn the outfield as recent as 10 months ago, and there’s no guarantee he’ll receive more than 300 or so plate appearances yet again.
The Angels, who traded Howie Kendrick to the Los Angeles Dodgers, seemed like a better fit as the Halos boast Johnny Giavotella and Josh Rutledge as the top options at second base. The Braves are without a proven answer at second, too, unless they plan to use Alberto Callaspo there, despite his own gross deficiencies with the glove.
Weeks, who was worth 1.2 fWAR last season, is a solid addition for Seattle. There’s virtually no downside — $2 million is nothing, Weeks isn’t blocking a younger player, nor is he a significant injury risk in his expected role.
The interesting dynamic here is the limited time Weeks has to figure out the outfield. Such a transition generally takes longer than a few months, but his athleticism should allow him to be passable almost immediately, and certainly by the time Opening Day arrives.
Jason A. Churchill
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