Assistant general manager Gord Ash just said that because the Brewers and representatives for second baseman Rickie Weeks have been unable to find common ground in talks about a multi-year extension, the sides have mutually agreed to change course and focus on a one-year deal for 2011.
The framework for that discussion was put in place Tuesday, when teams and their unsigned arbitration-eligible players swapped figures. Weeks is seeking 7.2 million in arbitration, and the Brewers offered $4.85 million.
Ash spoke with agent Greg Genske earlier Tuesday and Genske suggested “that it would probably be best, given our differences on a multi-year deal, to focus on a one-year deal but keep the options open in terms of revisiting a one-year deal,” Ash said. “So that’s the way we’ll proceed. We’ll try to get something done for this year and then continue to talk longer-term and use this as a placeholder, perhaps.”
Weeks is coming off a career year in 2010 in which he earned $2.75 million. After playing only 37 games in 2009 before undergoing wrist surgery, Weeks played 160 of the Brewers’ 162 games and batted .269 with a .366 on-base percentage, 112 runs scored, 29 home runs and 83 RBIs.
He led the Majors and set a Brewers record with 754 plate appearances and led the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot.
It was the kind of season the Brewers foresaw when they made Weeks the second overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. Injuries — mostly to Weeks’ hands and wrists — had slowed his ascent to that level.
For now, the sides disagree on how Weeks should be valued. Should more emphasis be placed on his “platform year” production in 2010 — a career year in which Weeks set a club record for plate appearances and career highs for home runs (29) and runs scored (112)? Or should the focus be his “length and consistency of career contribution” — which has been marred by injuries, mostly to his hands and wrists?
Both are factors in valuing an arbitration-eligible player, per Major League Baseball’s Basic Agreement.
Genske has not returned messages from MLB.com since taking over Weeks’ representation in September. Ash discussed his view on Tuesday evening.
“Rickie had a good year — there’s no question about that,” Ash said. “But the criteria also talks about the consistency of your career as well, so we should take that into account. That’s not as stellar as his so-called ‘platform season.’ We’ll continue to look at it.”
The Brewers and Genske faced differences of opinion in both years and dollars, Ash said, though the discrepancy is larger in the dollars.
“There’s a lot of negotiating that has to go on,” Ash said. “He’s looking at the player Rickie was this year and [assuming] he will be that going forward. Clearly, Rickie is a player we really value in terms of his dedication and his professionalism and his approach to the game, but we’ve had some uneven history here in terms of performance.
“So, we’re willing to go and extend, but there’s a limit to the level we’re willing to extend. We’ll have to work our way through that if we can. We still have time, but if there’s a belief on Genske’s side that Rickie Weeks is similar to Dan Uggla, then we’re going to have a problem.”
Uggla, traded by the Marlins to the Braves this offseason, finalized a five-year, $62 million contract extension earlier this month. His 2010 season was quite similar to Weeks’ in terms of home runs and on-base percentage, but the Brewers would point out that Uggla has played at least 146 games in each of his five big league seasons and has never belted fewer than 27 home runs.
Weeks has played more than 100 games three times and has undergone four surgeries.
“The facts are that Uggla is in a different salary level — he’s an elite player,” Ash said. “He can compare himself to some Hall of Fame players. He’s had an historic start. Rickie — we love him, but he’s not to that level yet.”