FanPost

Why Rickie Weeks Should Move to OF

Rickie Weeks has been in negotiations with the Brewers regarding his arbitration status. He, of course, is eligible and amenable to signing an extension for two or more years. Why wouldn't he be? He just came off a year in which he accumulated a 6.1 WAR, flashing some power and, just as importantly, posting a positive UZR for the first time in his career(excluding his outrageous small sample from 2009) 

Unfortunately, his acceptable UZR at second last season will likely cloud everyone's judgement in regards to an idea that has surfaced many a time, which is that Weeks move to center-field where he can utilize his range and cut down on valuable errors. Knowing that he's likely to suffer from regression to the mean disease next season, it comes as no surprise that the Brewers were not able to agree to an extension with Weeks and are instead focused on negotiating another one year deal. His value is most likely going to go down. The best way to keep his value up at a reasonable level is to move to the outfield.

Moving to the outfield isn't his choice. In fact, Weeks has said in the past that he does not want to do so. That is a mistake. In the five seasons in which Weeks played a significant amount of games, he's posted 0.3, 0.9, 3.1, 2.1, and 6.1 WAR respectively. He hasn't exactly been a model of consistency. His offensive game has clearly been improving, culminating in his .269/.366/.464 triple-slash in 2010. His defensive game, well, not so much. 

Errors have always been a problem for Weeks. He's not the only middle-infielder to accumulate a few errors from time to time, but in those same five healthiest seasons, he has committed 86 errors in 581 games -- one error every 6.75 games. This has sapped his value quite a bit. 

There's no reason Weeks can't be a consistent 3-5 WAR player. His six win season last year might be high. His sub-one win seasons were very low. A good way to establish consistency would be to move him to the outfield and solidify his defense there.

A good comparison would be BJ Upton. After struggling mightily with errors in the infield, he was moved to center-field full time after returning from a quad injury in July of 2007. Like Weeks, he had always displayed decent athleticism and range in the infield -- a skill likely to translate well to the outfield. 

Speed doesn't necessarily mean range and good UZR numbers. Jacoby Ellsbury tells us that. However, Upton made a smooth transition to the outfield and is considered one of the best defensive center-fielders around. Weeks is not as fast nor does he have as strong an arm, but he's close. He's close enough to post a positive UZR in the outfield and cut down on his errors dramatically, and I'm convinced he has some sort of outfield instincts, as he played there throughout high-school and college. 

Without breaking down UZR and WAR to the bare minimum and re-calculating, it's hard to tell the effects this would truly have on Weeks. However, I believe that like it did with Upton, a move to the outfield would raise Weeks to a different caliber of player and give him a sort of "golden parachute" back down to reality after his six-win year.

Such a move would  also make his extension more likely and secure his career long-term. Considering he is already a poor second-baseman, he is likely to move to another position as he ages anyway, likely in one of the outfield corners. Why not move out to center now and be of more use? This is a question for the Brewers to ponder.

WAR figures taken from FanGraphs. For more, including an interview with pitcher CJ Nitkowski, visit my blog A King's Vice or follow me on Twitter

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