News surfaced this morning that the Brewers exercised Yovani Gallardo‘s option, which at $13 million was a virtual no-brainer (quickly compare Gallardo’s salary and performance to that of Edwin Jackson, Tim Lincecum, or even teammates Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza, among NL RHP). Even after a rough 2013, Gallardo was one of only 26 NL starters to have worked 100+ IP in each of 2011-2013, and he rebounded with a brilliant reinvention in 2014. Gallardo remains one of the NL’s most consistent and dependable arms, with six consecutive 100+ IP seasons as a regular starter (to put this in perspective, only seven other NL starters can best Gallardo’s claim to dependability). Fans typically say, “well, Gallardo’s not a #1 starter,” but that’s to miss the point: Gallardo’s about as good as it gets outside of a true #1.
As expected, Rickie Weeks‘s 2015 option failed to vest, due to his platoon with Scooter Gennett. Weeks was always one of my favorite Brewers, from the day he set forth as Ned Yost‘s primary lead-off man. Despite Weeks’s potential power/speed combination that could have served elsewhere in the order, he dutifully used extreme patience to develop his approach at the top of the order. Many will simply tell the story of Rickie Weeks as a solid-but-injury-riddled second baseman in Milwaukee, but I don’t think that is the whole story on Weeks. Stories always surfaced from TV and radio broadcasts about Weeks’s dedication and work ethic in the clubhouse, and I think that his story should eventually be recast and analyzed with his set lead-off role: could his career have developed otherwise, if he was placed elsewhere in the order? How did having one set batting order role impact his career? This is all speculation, of course, because to a certain degree one can find specific trends throughout Weeks’s career that outline his ability: indeed, he had that power/speed combo, and his approach was never one that revolved around batting-the-ball-into-play; Weeks was a walk-and-power second baseman.
Let’s celebrate that power and speed for a moment. It would certainly be easy to look at Weeks’s three best seasons, with 58 homers and 22 stolen bases, to note his threats around the diamond. But even in seasons that weren’t his best, Weeks still brought his skills to various elements of the game: 13 HR / 15 SB, 14 HR / 19 SB, and even 21 HR / 16 SB in 2012 are not power/speed numbers to scoff at. Among active players, Weeks’s power speed number places him 31st overall, and he’s the fifth best active 2B (unless one considers Alfonso Soriano a 2B). This should help place Weeks’s contract into perspective, which will undoubtedly be one of the most contentious areas of revisionist history for fans and analysts reviewing Weeks’s tenure. When Weeks signed his extension in the 2010-2011 offseason, he was one of four second basemen with 80+ HR / 80+ SB between 2005 and 2010, and his walk rate was sixth best, to boot. Not surprisingly, Weeks was one of the Top 10 offensive second basemen in the league.
We will have a lot of time to process and analyze Weeks’s career in Milwaukee. In the season ending podcast, one of the key ideas is that Weeks was the first face of the Brewers’ resurgence. In this case, every Brewers fan should recognize that Weeks’s likely departure from Milwaukee further closes that great area. That era was indeed great, and it’s no accident: from 2005-to-2014, Doug Melvin‘s Brewers were the 5th best club in the NL, and one of seven teams to make the LCS in an era dominated by two clubs; it is no accident that those years perfectly span Weeks’s full seasons in Milwaukee. In time, Weeks will be a force to be reckoned with when future generations debate Milwaukee’s best 2B. But Weeks is more than that: As someone who became an everyday fan during the rough rebuilding years, and was looking for every sliver of hope, Weeks will always be one of my favorite Brewers, if only because he truly was one of the first signs of the organization’s rebirth. So, I’ll make this even easier than my last couple of paragraphs:
Thank You, Rickie!