Replacing Weeks

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.

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5 responses to “Replacing Weeks

  1. How would playing Gamel at third every day hurt his development? Yes, he may struggle and may lose confidence, but isn’t it better to have a guy play everyday in the majors then to play every 2 or 3 days? For the record, I think the Bill Hall option is the Brewers only real option.

    You list Felipe Lopez and Mark DeRosa as possibilities. DeRosa, I believe, has a huge contract (5.5 million) and if their owner was serious about not adding payroll, then that is a lot of money to be adding. Felipe Lopez may be had, but do you think Arizona would just give him away? Arizona is fine in regards to pitching, so they would likely target some players like an Angel Salome, an Alcides Escobar or some other highly touted Brewers bat. That is a tough sell for any team to make for an admittedly 1 year solution.

    Plus, selling off payroll in regards to players with 1 year contracts isn’t in a GM’s best interest typically, as that money is off the books at the end of the year. It’s the long term deals that all these GM’s are likely shopping.

  2. I am drunk, so take this with a grain of salt–but it is my hope that Gamel will be playing first for the Crew as soon as next year and he sucks at third. So instead of seeing him pulling a Braun and hurt his great offensive potential with crappy defense, it would be better to see the Brewers limit his use and let him ease into the Majors. Or I am a drunken idiot girl fan. Whichever.

  3. Awesome drunk post.

    I wasn’t clear enough, but what I meant to say would hurt Gamel’s development is if he played at third and was so bad defensively that the Brewers needed to remove him from the lineup. I still am holding out hope that he can stick at third long-term, but it’s tough to simultaneously develop a player at the major league level AND make a playoff push.

    Christina, I think the plan WAS to ease Gamel into the majors, but then Weeks got hurt and they may now have to alter that plan. When guys like Hardy, Weeks, Hart and Fielder were in the minors, the Brewers had the “luxury” of taking their time because the Brewers weren’t a playoff threat (though they rushed Weeks anyway). They no longer have that luxury because they are trying to win games.

    You aren’t alone in thinking that Gamel will eventually have to move off third, but I’m not sure it will be as soon as next year. That’s just my opinion, but it sounds like the Brewers are holding out hope that he can stick at third. It’s the only place they have a hole long-term. And if Gamel does move off third, I’m not so sure it won’t be Hart traded instead of Fielder before next season to move Gamel to the outfield. Fielder is under contract for two more years after 2009, which leaves enough time to find a different replacement.

    TK, perhaps I’m undervaluing Lopez, but I don’t see the Brewers needing to give up Salome for a few months of Lopez, and certainly not Escobar. Arizona would probably be happy to save a couple million bucks and would accept a prospect outside the Brewers’ top ten. If they would not, then the Brewers wouldn’t make the trade. I prefer to save the top prospects (Escobar, Salome, Jeffress, etc.) for a possible trade to bring in a good pitcher, and I’m pretty sure the Brewers feel the same.

    DeRosa’s contract is pretty pricy, so that’s a good point. That’s pretty much why I tried to hint that wasn’t the best route. I do have to disagree a bit with the point you made about trading impending free agents. You see these players dealt all the time. Teams want to get something for them while they can. Examples of this over the years include CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Lee, Randy Johnson, etc. It doesn’t have to be big name players, either. The Brewers acquired Ray Durham for the stretch run last year and Scott Linebrink the year before last.

    There’s a higher demand for these players because there’s no long-term commitment attached to them.

    • I don’t argue about that teams look to deal there guys on 1 year contracts. I just wanted to make sure it didn’t come across that they look to do it as a salary dump and more of a move to get talent for an asset that will be gone in 2 months anyways.

      Brewers only real option is to start Hall at 2B and play Gamel at 3B in my eyes. Regardless of when he plays third, he is going to be force fed at 3B at the major league level at some point. Better to learn now (interleague games) rather then wait until later in the season or next year and cost him development time of learning a new position.

      Some trade options for them (aren’t starters, but really the Brewers only need someone to platoon with Counsell if they go that route) could be guys like Edgar Gonzalez of the Padres, Jamey Carroll of the Indians, Matt Tolbert of the Twins, Mark Ellis of the A’s if they start dealing their guys or a guy like Ronnie Belliard or Anderson Hernandez from the Nats. None of these guys would require much of a return and then could fill the super utility role of a Counsell or go to AAA the next season. Little payroll addition and they would merit a C prospect at best (only Ellis may be worth more).

      The main issue for me in looking at their trading options is who do they deal? A lot of their top guys have run into questions this season and seen their stock drop. Consider:

      Jeffress: just failed his first attempt at AA
      Salome: .250 at AAA for a guy who is a defensive tweener
      Cain: Out for a period of time
      Dykstra: .212 at low A
      Gillespie: .221 at AAA (why did he skip AA)
      Lucroy: .255 with no power at AA

      No sense trading these guys when their stock is down. The only person, in looking at the Brewers top 10 prospects they could theoretically move in a 1 for 1 deal for a legit starting 2B prospect is Taylor Green in my eyes. I think it makes more sense for the Brewers to pursue one of the above options at the cost of a fringe prospect, a guy like Eric Farris.

      Thoughts?

  4. Farris is a good example of the type of guy I would expect to see traded for a 2B replacement. You won’t get DeRosa or Lopez for someone like that, but Belliard, Carroll etc. like you named could help. Thing is, it’s not clear that any of those guys are a clear upgrade over McGehee (I really don’t know what they have in him yet), so I don’t even think the Brewers would bother with someone like that at this point until they see McGehee a bit.

    You also make a good observation by pointing out that many of their top prospects are struggling a bit so far. Gamel was the only one excelling, and it seems clear the Brewers will be hanging on to him. Out of everyone else you name, I think the least likely to be traded is Lorenzo Cain, simply because they really have nobody else on the horizon to play center. Guys like Jeffress, Salome, Lucroy and even Escobar are players I’d be willing to part with for a good starting pitcher the Brewers could control for multiple years. You mentioned Taylor Green, and I think he has good value as well as someone who should be able to play second or third with league average offense (at second, anyway… Third not sure)

    After thinking about this more, I agree that the approach I’d like them to take is Gamel getting most starts at third with Hall getting time at second base. Hall starting against Oswalt with Gamel on the bench seemed foolish. I’d rather the Brewers give this a try before making a trade.

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