As we get closer to spring training, a big question becomes who will be the players on the 25 man roster. For the Brewers, this is complicated by the fact that they seem to be leaning toward a trio of players (Overbay, Reynolds, and Francisco) to man 1st base and provide depth at third.
After accounting for 12 pitchers, 2 catchers, and 7 other position starters, we have 21 slots spoken for. If we assume the Brewers keep all three of the above, that uses up 2 of the remaining 4 slots, leaving us only 2 more slots. The team must use one of those slots on a reserve outfielder, leaving only one for a utility middle infielder. The question is whether the Crew would use that one slot on Rickie Weeks. Although Rickie is one of my favorite Brewers, I don’t think they will. The reasons are a combination of his sizable contract, his tendency in recent years to get injured and spend time on the DL, and the fact that he does not have experience at SS. Given all of these factors, a look at opportunity cost tells me we give up way more than we need or can afford to keep him in a platoon with Scooter at 2B.
With that in mind, I expect we will see the Brewers actively looking to move Rickie during spring training, and other teams dialing Doug Melvin’s number to sniff around about his availability, net cost, and trade interests. With the big $s left in his contract this year, I would be shocked if the Crew doesn’t have to agree to pay a sizable portion of his salary in 2014. The question of how much will depend on three factors:
1) How well Rickie does in spring training, and
2) How eager is another team to acquire his services, and
3) What we get in exchange in the trade, particularly how much salary they carry.
In other words, if Rickie does well in spring, and a team that is reasonably in contention loses their 2B to an ACL on March 15, we might get away with paying little (1/3rd or less) of his salary. That would be particularly true if we get someone in trade who is attractive to us (say a solid RP) and who brings significant salary obligations in tow.
However, if Rickie is less than stellar in spring, and the acquisitor simply wants to add depth at 2B and pick up another plus bat to pinch hit, we may have to pay a lot (2/3rds or more) of the salary. This would be particularly true if the players we get are middling MiLB prospects who remove little financial burden from the sending team.
The first scenario is highly attractive to the Brewers on multiple counts. One might ask why we would even want to consider the second one. It is actually as easy to understand as it is painful to accept. It comes down, once again, to opportunity cost. Even if you only save 1/3rd of Rickie’s 2014 salary, that is a lot of $$ which can be used to address other pressing issues like the bullpen. Also, the risk of using the remaining IF utility spot on an injury-prone star who cannot reasonably provide coverage at SS exceeds the return of his experience and bat.
What could change my expectations on this? Any combination of the following:
1) Rickie is stellar in spring training and Scooter struggles, and/or
2) The Crew decides that they only need to keep two of the three 1B/3B triumvirate, and/or
3) No one makes an even moderately attractive offer.
The most likely scenario is one where Rickie Weeks leaves the Brewers sometime in spring in exchange for either a player who brings more bang for the buck in 2014 than he does OR for some future prospects, and that the Brewers agree to pay (and get to save) somewhere between 40% to 60% of his 2014 contract.