Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rickie Weeks Strikes it Rich

Prince Fielder might not be long for the Brew City, but the Milwaukee Brewers have locked up another key piece to their lineup for a number of years.

Corey Hart and Ryan Braun are already signed long term, as is pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Now, second baseman Rickie Weeks is in the fold for the foreseeable future.

Weeks has agreed to a five-year extension (including a one-year option) with the Brewers. Ken Rosenthal of FOX says the deal is worth $50 million when you count the option year.

When the Brewers acquired Zack Greinke from Kansas City the weekend before Christmas, it was the official announcement by general manager Doug Melvin that the team wasn't going to sit around in 2011 and let Fielder's contract expire without trying to push the baseball season into October.

The Brewers are spending a lot of money, but the expectation of owner Mark Attanasio is that this team will give him plenty of return on his investment. One of the cheapest franchises in baseball under previous ownership, Attanasio -- as Tom Haudricourt explained in early February -- is willing to take a different approach to payroll.

Rather than let his budget dictate the talent level of his club, Attanasio decided to let the talent level dictate his budget. In baseball circles, where owners often throw bucketfuls of money at the nearest warm body, it was a different way of doing business.

"I wasn't this year going to spend money for the sake of spending money," Attanasio said last Sunday while attending the "Brewers On Deck" fan event downtown.

"I think we've done that a little bit the last couple of years, and it didn't really work."

... "One of the things I've learned is setting a rigid number is not optimum," said Attanasio. "You talk in sports about letting the game come to you. I let things come to us.

"We didn't set a number, but we weren't going to spend money just to spend money. It would have been whatever it was. We were looking at a lot of things.

"What's important is we were looking at it qualitatively rather than quantitatively. We didn't say, 'We've got to spend this.' We said, 'How are we going to compete?'"

... "Once again, I've managed to put ourselves in a position where we could lose money this year even with 3 million fans, which we project coming out," said Attanasio, who indicated the Brewers finished in the red in 2010 after drawing more than 2.7 million.

"There's nothing better than winning. What I wasn't going to do was spend the money and not get the players we wanted. When you get a chance to get a Zack Greinke, all bets are off. There's one Cy Young Award winner each year in each league. We've managed, in 2008 (with midseason acquisition CC Sabathia) and now, to have two Cy Young winners on our staff."

(Long chunk here, but it's a really good story and worth a read. As is most of what Tom writes for the Journal Sentinel ... one of the better beat guys in baseball.)

The Brewers are going to be a contender this year, provided the bullpen is solid and the bats as lively as they were last year, when Casey McGehee joined Braun and Hart at over 100 RBIs, and Fielder, McGehee, Weeks, Braun, and Hart all had at least 23 home runs.

Greinke doesn't need to carry the pitching staff like he did in Kansas City, and he (hopefully) will be more relaxed with a better team behind him. Gallardo is still an ace-quality pitcher, and while Marcum and Randy Wolf don't exactly give the Brewers a 1-4 in the rotation near Philadelphia's caliber, the four are a potent bunch that will win Milwaukee some games.

If Gallardo, Wolf, Dave Bush, and Chris Narveson can combine for 47 wins, imagine what Gallardo, Greinke, Marcum, and Wolf, with Narveson as a fifth starter, can do. Take out Bush's propensity for getting shelled in the sixth after five great innings, replace it with a former Cy Young winner like Greinke, and then add a young guy like Marcum who had a very good season in Toronto, and it's a pretty formidable rotation.


Weeks' contract is a bit of a risk, no doubt, because the Brewers have seen multiple Weeks seasons blown up by injuries. He was healthy for all of 2010, however, and look what he did.

He stabilized the top of the Brewers' order with a solid .269/.366/.464 season. He hit a career-high 29 home runs and scored 112 runs while being plunked 25 times and shaking every one of them off.

Just think what the speedy Weeks can do now that he has a manager (Ron Roenicke) who actually knows what a stolen base is. Here comes the 30/30 talk!

Reading Haudricourt's tweets, it sounds like the Brewers are more than happy to reward Weeks for his hard work and constant improvement. Hopefully, Weeks rewards the Brewers by continuing to get better. He will also have to become a leader along the infield, as McGehee is joined by new shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt on the left side, and Fielder will be gone from first base after this season.

Given the recent accomplishments of the Packers, the Brewers could set us up for quite the exciting summer in Wisconsin, continuing what's been a banner sports year thus far.

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