Rickie Weeks Rumors

NL Central Notes: Cubs, Garza, Cardinals, Weeks

Tomorrow is the 30th anniversary of the infamous Lee Elia tirade against the Wrigley Field faithful where he unleased 37 "bleeps" in 187 seconds. Elia would remain as manager of the Cubs for just four more months. John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle chronicles how times have changed for Major League managers. Four reporters were present for Elia's rant and only one had a microphone which captured the event for all posterity. Shea reminds us today there are interview rooms, social media, and live post-game press conferences shown on regional and national sports networks. As a result, Shea says managers have to be more articulate, polite, and thoughtful. Giants manager Bruce Bochy echoes that sentiment, "It's different when you just see pen and paper. When there's a camera there, you have to remind yourself." Elsewhere from the NL Central Division:

  • Cubs manager Dale Sveum refuses to name a closer telling reporters, including the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan, "I'm not going to really mess with anything right now in our bullpen. It's about as good as it can be right now." The Cubs are 7-for-13 in save opportunites with three different relievers notching a save including Kevin Gregg, who leads the team with three despite being recalled only two weeks ago.
  • Matt Garza, number seven on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Rankings, was scheduled to throw a bullpen session today and is on track to make three or four minor league rehab starts, reports David Furones of MLB.com.
  • Speaking of Garza, Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald revisited the trade which brought the right-hander to Chicago and notes just one of the eight players invovled in the deal is currently playing in the Majors. Miles sees the trade as a wash, a viewpoint shared by MLBTR's Steve Adams who examined the Garza trade in a Transaction Retrospection last month.
  • The Cardinals' imploding bullpen saw its ERA rise to 5.93 after surrendering six runs to the Pirates today. MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch tweets the status quo cannot continue, but the team does not have many in-house options. Langosch also tweeted injured closer Jason Motte played catch for the second consecutive day indicating his arm responded well to yesterday's session.
  • For the second straight season, Rickie Weeks is off to a slow start offensively with only seven hits in his last 69 at-bats. Adam McCalvy of MLB.com speculates Weeks will have a long leash because no one in the front office wants to start the service clock of Scooter Gennett, the Brewers' sixth-best prospect according to MLB.com, just yet. 

Brewers Notes: Starting Rotation, Hart, Weeks

The Milwaukee Brewers experienced a roller coaster season in 2012 marked by injuries, blown saves, and being 12 games under .500 on August 20 before embarking on a 24-6 run that boosted them back into the Wild Card race until being eliminated on the final weekend of the season. Club officials say everyone feels better about the state of the franchise heading into the offseason. But, how will that shape the winter for the Brewers? Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discussed that topic and other issues in a recent online chat with fans. Here are the highlights:

  • GM Doug Melvin will be looking to add a veteran to the starting rotation and Haudricourt named Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, and Kyle Lohse as possibilities. A fan suggested Brandon McCarthy and Haudricourt acknowledged the Brewers will perform their due diligence, but any addition will only be made if the pitcher is affordable, the right fit, and wants to come to Milwaukee. 
  • Haudricourt anticipates the Brewers signing a free agent starting pitcher is a more likely scenario than trading for one because the club has some payroll flexibility and they've already traded away a lot of prospects for pitching in recent years.
  • Don't look for the Brewers to deal Corey Hart or Rickie Weeks to create more payroll flexibility. Haudricourt would be surprised if Hart, entering the final year of his contract with a 2013 salary of $10 MM, is traded despite the presence of Southern League MVP Hunter Morris. Weeks, due a guaranteed $21MM over the next two seasons, should also be safe, Haudricourt theorized, because the Brewers have enough money coming off the books to not have to worry about his salary. 
  • Haudricourt expects the payroll be less in 2013 than the $100 million-plus of this year, a spending level that should put the franchise in the red for 2012.
  • Expect Nyjer Morgan to be non-tendered. It was obvious, Haudricourt opined, that Morgan was being phased out and having made $2.3MM and eligible for arbitration again, he probably will be replaced by Logan Schafer, a less expensive option who is considered a better defender. Haudricourt did praise Morgan for conducting himself professionally and never popping off or openly complaining about his decrease in playing time.
  • Haudricourt listed some minor league prospects who took a big step this year and that fans should keep an eye on next season, including the aforementioned Morris. 

Brewers Sign Rickie Weeks To Four-Year Extension

The Brewers avoided arbitration with Rickie Weeks, signing the second baseman to a four-year deal that includes an option for 2015. The AP (via The Boston Herald) reports that the first four years of the contract are worth $38.5MM. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Brewers can void the fifth year of the contract if Weeks is not an everyday player in 2013 and 2014 and Bob Nightengale of USA Today has the details (Twitter links). The deal could be worth up to $50MM, according to Rosenthal (links).

Weeks' deal eliminates the need for tomorrow's scheduled arbitration hearing. Weeks asked for $7.2MM in arbitration, while the Brewers countered with a $4.85MM submission, as our Arb Tracker shows.

Weeks, a former top prospect, broke out with his best season yet in 2010. The 28-year-old hit .269/.366/.464 with 29 homers and 32 doubles. He was able to avoid injuries, playing in as many as 130 games for the first time in his career.

Weeks' deal, which has been in the works throughout the offseason, prevents the second baseman from hitting free agency and buys out three free agent seasons. Next winter's crop of free agent second basemen got a little less interesting, now that Weeks has agreed to a deal with Milwaukee.

Jose Bautista, who is working on a multiyear deal with the Blue Jays, and Hunter Pence are the two remaining unsigned arbitration eligilbe players.

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel first reported that the Brewers had a tentative agreement with Weeks.



Brewers, Weeks Discussing Long-Term Deal

The Brewers and Rickie Weeks are discussing an extension that would buy out at least two of the second baseman's free agent seasons, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The deal would be for three to five years and would eliminate the need for Thursday's scheduled arbitration hearing.

As MLBTR's Arb Tracker shows, Weeks is one of four arbitration eligible players who don't have contracts for 2011. Kelly Johnson, a top comparable for Weeks, settled for $5.85MM earlier today. That's below the midpoint for Weeks and the Brewers, but today's agreement doesn't necessarily hurt Weeks, who was working from a higher base salary ($2.75MM) than Johnson.

Next winter's crop of free agent second basemen will become a little less interesting if Weeks signs long-term. He is scheduled to hit free agency after the 2011 season. The Brewers picked up negotiations with Weeks last week after setting talks aside for a while.


Brewers Again Negotiating Multiyear Deal With Weeks

The Brewers are still trying to sign second baseman Rickie Weeks to a long-term extension, reports Anthony Witrado of The Sporting News.  We heard last month that the two sides had set aside the extension talks to focus on Weeks' 2011 contract, but given that Weeks set the start of Spring Training as his deadline for any negotiations about a multiyear pact, the Brewers were no doubt interested in revisiting the topic given that their camp opens next week.

"We'll get a better sense of where we are in the next couple of days," Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin tells Witrado.  "We still have a little bit of time. We're always optimistic we can get something done, and we're still engaged in multiyear talks. If we don't (get that done) then we have to focus on this year."

Weeks' arbitration hearing is set for February 17, which Witrado notes is also the same day that the Brewers' pitchers and catchers hold their first spring workout.  Weeks filed an arbitration number of $7.2MM, while Milwaukee has a counter-offer worth $4.85MM.  This is Weeks' last year of arbitration eligibility and he'll be a free agent after the 2011 campaign. 

Milwaukee assistant GM Gord Ash has handled negotiations with Greg Genske, Weeks' agent, and Ash tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he and Genske "are still talking" but gave no further comments.  In a separate piece, Haudricourt reports that Ash and Genske have found "it difficult to find a common ground" about Weeks' value given the second baseman's injury history before his breakout 2010 season.  A team source tells Haudricourt that the Brewers don't want to lose both Weeks and Prince Fielder to free agency next winter, and an extension for Weeks will be much less expensive than the $200MM contract that Fielder reportedly wants


Quick Hits: Weeks, Dodgers, Cuddyer, Mets

On this day 20 years ago, the Atlanta Braves signed Falcons cornerback Deion Sanders as a free agent. Though he struggled in his first year as a Brave, 'Prime Time' was a key contributor for the National League champs in 1992; he hit .304/.346/.495 with 26 stolen bases in 325 regular season plate appearances and added eight hits and five steals in four World Series games. Sanders ended up leaving both Atlanta franchises in 1994, but not before he racked up 75 stolen bases and ten touchdowns for the Braves and Falcons respectively. Here are Sunday's links:


Rickie Weeks Has Deadline For Extension Negotiations

Rickie Weeks, who is eligible for free agency after 2011, does not want to talk about a multiyear extension once Spring Training begins, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Once I get to Spring Training, I want to focus on baseball," the second baseman told Haudricourt.

Weeks, 28, is still without a contract for 2011, though we heard this morning that the Brewers are optimistic about working out a one-year deal rather than going to a hearing. Arbitration eligible for the last time, Weeks filed for $7.2MM, while the Brewers countered with $4.85MM.

The Brewers have expressed a desire to sign Weeks to a multiyear deal, but tabled those talks for the time being, while they work on a one-year contract. Even if the two sides agree on a salary for 2011 soon, the Brewers will have to re-open multiyear discussions fairly quickly if they hope to lock Weeks up long-term before his Spring Training deadline. Given how far apart the two sides were when they talked before, Haudricourt says an extension before Spring Training "sounds almost impossible."


Arbitration Rumors: Marcum, Weeks, Liriano, Young

17 arbitration eligible players remain unsigned, according to MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker, and only four teams have more than one outstanding case. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and MLB.com's Kelly Thesier provide negotiation updates on two of those clubs with multiple cases, the Brewers and Twins….

  • Brewers negotiator Teddy Werner is optimistic that the team will reach agreements with both Shaun Marcum and Rickie Weeks without going to a hearing.
  • Both players are exclusively discussing one-year deals with the Brewers, though Werner conveyed the club's desire to work out a long-term extension with Weeks later this year.
  • Like the Brewers, the Twins appear to be focusing on one-year deals, rather than multiyear extensions, with their arbitration eligible players, Francisco Liriano and Delmon Young. "Right now, we're focused on trying to get them signed for 2011, and we'll go from there," Minnesota GM Bill Smith told Thesier.
  • Smith appears willing to go to a hearing with either player if they can't settle on a figure the Twins like: "We'll continue to work on these two guys, and if we can reach agreement, we will. If not, then there's an arbitration panel that will do it."

Ten Arbitration Cases To Watch

There aren't many unsigned arbitration eligible players remaining at this point in the winter, but many of the most high-profile cases remain unresolved. As MLBTR's Arb Tracker shows, 26 arbitration eligible players have yet to agree on their 2011 salaries. Some of them will sign extensions, some will go to hearings and others will avoid arbitration with one-year deals. Here's a primer on ten of the most interesting arbitration eligible players out there:

10. Mike Napoli, Blue Jays - In case arbitration cases weren't complicated enough, the Blue Jays have to defend the Angels' number ($5.3MM) if they go to an arbitration hearing with Napoli, who filed at $6.1MM. The numbers stand, even though the Blue Jays acquired the catcher/first baseman after the Angels exchanged arbitration submissions with him.

9. R.A. Dickey, Mets – Dickey has said he's open to a multiyear deal. We'll soon know whether Mets GM Sandy Alderson wants to extend the knuckleballer or settle on a contract in the $3.35-4.7MM range.

8. Delmon Young, Twins - There's a $1.6MM difference between Young's asking price ($6.25MM) and the Twins' suggested salary ($4.65MM). 

7. Jeremy Guthrie, Orioles – As I explained yesterday, Guthrie's case could come down to his durability (175 innings in four consecutive seasons) vs. the fact that comparable starters (John Danks, Chad Billingsley, Matt Garza) have been harder to hit.

6. Rickie Weeks, Brewers – The Brewers are no longer discussing a multiyear deal with Weeks, who is asking for $7.2MM. The Brewers countered with $4.85MM.

5. Francisco Liriano, Twins - Liriano made $1.6MM last year and posted a 3.62 ERA with 9.4 K/9 in 191 2/3 innings. His representatives at Legacy Sports will argue that he has earned a raise to $5MM, while Bill Smith and the Twins say $3.6MM is more appropriate.

4. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros – Rodriguez's $10.25MM asking price seems high until you realize how few arbitration eligible pitchers have comparable big league experience (the Astros offered $8MM). Rodriguez is just 15 innings shy of 1,000 for his career and his ERA hasn't surpassed 3.60 in any of the past three seasons. The lefty's 985 innings are 246 more than Erik Bedard had after 2008, the season that set Bedard up for a $7.75MM payday. Few arbitration eligible pitchers earn eight-figure deals, but few have as much big league experience and success as Rodriguez.

3. Jered Weaver, Angels - Weaver requested $8.8MM, while the Angels countered with $7.465MM. Either way, the Scott Boras client will be earning substantially more than he did in 2010, when he made $4.625MM.

2. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays – I wrote last fall that Bautista's case comes down to his historic 2010 season vs. the forgettable campaigns he strung together before last year. Click here to read more.

1. Josh Hamilton, Rangers - The Rangers could bring up Hamilton’s injury history and past substance abuse, but they would have to do so subtly, says Michael Vlessides, a veteran arbitration consultant.  “It’s the fine line between how much do you pick on the guy who’s the MVP. If you do it too much, you can lose a lot of credibility” Vlessides said. Beating MVPs in arbitration hearings isn’t easy, but the Pirates beat Barry Bonds after he won his first MVP in 1990 and again the following offseason.


Arbitration Figures: Tuesday

Today is the deadline for players and teams to submit arbitration figures. Let's keep track of those figures here, with the latest updates on top. You can track all of the players that avoided arbitration today here.

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