Rickie Weeks: One of the Better Free Agent Values; But For How Much?

Rickie Weeks has already made over $44 million in his career, and he is poised to take in another $5 or so million in free agency this coming offseason, standard price these days for a decent starting second baseman on a one-year, prove-your-skill deal. The Brewers made the incredibly obvious decision in declining Weeks' $11.5 million option for 2015, as he totaled only 685 plate appearances over 225 games the past two seasons. This past season, in a platoon with Scooter Gennett, Weeks hit .274 with 8 home runs and 29 RBIs, impressive numbers for a part-time player but not anything to marvel at. However, when digging deeper, we can learn that Weeks could be worth far more than he's getting paid if given a starting job. Let's find the break-even value and go from there.

Weeks has always been one to take a decent amount of walks, and while his BB% of 8.7% was a bit low by his standards, it's still a solid number. What was staggering from Weeks' season, however, was his isolated power figure of .179, his highest since 2011, when he was an All-Star and hit 20 homers in 118 games. We could point to his high BABIP of .355 as a sign of regression, but it's not unfathomable when seeing that he posted higher line-drive (18.3%) and ground ball (56.7%) rates than he has in years (and in the case of his ground ball rate, his highest ever). His GB/FB rate of 2.27 bested his previous career high in a season by .69, yet his HR/FB rate (17.8%) wasn't too far off of his career rate of 14%.

It should be noted that Steamer isn't very high on Weeks for 2015, predicting just a .238 batting average with 12 HR in 445 plate appearances, leading to a 0.9 WAR. This Beyond the Box Score article from 2013 estimated that a single win above replacement is worth about $7 million, which would make Steamer's 0.9 WAR worth $6.3 million, not much more than the $5-6 million he could earn in free agency, and obviously less than the $7-9 million he could also earn if the right team comes along.

A good signing, in my opinion, would "profit" 50% of the value in WAR, so Weeks would need to produce about 1.2 WAR to "break-even" on a $9 million contract (the high end of most pundits' projections), and therefore about 1.8 WAR for his team to make make its suggested 50% profit.

That profit margin may be a bit unrealistic, however, for a player with bad defense who only ends up playing in 115 or so games, so let's meet in the middle with Steamer's projection of 0.9 WAR and Weeks' 2014 of 1.2 WAR, as we expect some regression but Steamer seems a bit negative. We're at 1.05 WAR, or about $7.35 million in value. Weeks would need to produce about 1.6 WAR to make the 50% profit. which is highly doable, especially in friendlier parks like Rogers Centre, Camden Yards or Yankee Stadium, all places he could potentially sign. If they're earning about $7.35 million in value based on my meet-in-the-middle projection, anywhere between $6-6.5 million is good value for the slugging second baseman.