Posted by Steve
I feel I’ve taken the proper amount of time to grieve. It helps that the Brewers can’t seem to lose. It also helps that PECOTA now has the Brewers as NL Central favorites.
So, how should the Brewers replace Rickie Weeks? There are several possibilities, and each one has its downside. It’s important to realize no option will be as good as if Weeks never got injured, so it’s just a matter of making the best out of a crappy situation.
One option is to make a trade. Teams aren’t going to be selling off pieces just yet, but I do expecting losing teams to pull the plug on the season earlier than usual. With the economy, many teams are going to shed salary if they’re not in contention. Incidentally, this should make it a great buyer’s market for teams like the Brewers (hey, just like in real life!) I think we could see the first trades being made in two or three weeks. This seems convenient, because it seems the Brewers are first going to see if they can adequately fill second base in-house. If it’s not working out, there will be options for a trade.
A trade for a second baseman would be tricky because, as Doug Melvin already alluded to, they’ll have Weeks back next year. They really only need someone for one year. A Brewerfan poster called for a Brian Roberts trade, but that won’t work for a few reasons. Roberts is more than a stopgap. He’s a very good second baseman who would demand a lot in a trade. I’d rather save my trading chips for another starting pitcher rather than a second baseman. Furthermore, Roberts is under contract for three more years after this season, which doesn’t work with Weeks getting back next year. Finally, Baltimore doesn’t even seem to want to trade him. They’ve had several chances to in the past.
To find realistic trade options, look for losing teams with second basemen on short-term contracts. There are two that jump out at me: Felipe Lopez and Mark DeRosa. Both players are free agents after this season, so the Brewers would hand second base back to Weeks next season. DeRosa is the better offensive player, but Lopez is the better defensive player. Either would be a viable replacement and shouldn’t cost a lot in terms of prospects. Both Cleveland and Arizona are off to bad starts and will likely just be looking to shed some salary as we move further into summer. One thing to keep in mind is that aside from giving up prospects, the Brewers would be adding salary. If you believe Mark Attanasio, they don’t have much room left. They probably prefer to save that space for another pitcher, so a trade is probably not the first choice.
Free agents are other options. Mark Grudzielanek and Ray Durham are both still unsigned. Both are older players, and neither has much defensive range left. Durham would be a solid bat, but his defense is pretty rough at this point. Going from Weeks to Durham defensively is a huge downgrade, especially considering what Weeks was doing this season.
The most likely option, and what the Brewers hope works out is to fill the position with their own players. There are a number of possibilities here, and it’s difficult to determine which would be the best. They could use a Counsell/McGehee platoon, but I don’t like the idea of Counsell starting more than two or three times a week. Counsell has good value as a bench player who can play any infield position, and it’s important the Brewers keep him fresh all season. The Brewers called up Hernan Iribarren, who can play second base as well.
There is another option that I really want to embrace, but I’m just not sure if I can. That would be to keep Mat Gamel up for good and hand him third base most every day. You’d give Bill Hall most of the starts at second base, and use Hall against third once in awhile against lefties. This solution would likely be the best result for the Brewers’ offense, but there are still some serious problems with it. First, it screws with Bill Hall once again. He’s playing a great third base, and I’m not crazy about having him switch positions again. More importantly, though, moving Hall to second and using Gamel at third could kill the Brewers’ defense. The defense had been very good this season with Hall, Hardy and Weeks on the infield. Hall should be alright at second, but as we saw in his first start, Gamel could be a circus act at third base.
I’m inclined to give Gamel a try at third and hope for the best, but if that doesn’t work out you’ve screwed with Hall once again and might have hurt Gamel’s development.
This is really a tough decision with no 100% right answer. If I had to guess, it would be that we’ll see Gamel once or twice more at third before interleague play is over, along with his starts at DH. If Gamel is hitting well, he’ll probably get more starts at third and we may eventually see Hall play some at third. I’m guessing we’ll see four or five different players play second base for the Brewers before the season’s over.
I’m scoring the Brewer game that’s starting in less than a half hour, so I have the rare treat to watch a game live in its entirety. I haven’t seen the lineup yet, but it’s Yo against Wandy Rodriguez (great matchup, by the by) so I’m guessing it’s Hall at third and McGehee at second.