In case you needed another reminder to never believe what a front office lets the public hear, here’s what Billy Beane told Jane Lee of MLB.com just six days ago:
The talent is still there, insists Billy Beane. That’s why the A’s general manager was so patient with a struggling Jemile Weeks last year.
That’s why the second baseman, hitting just .220 over 113 games, wasn’t demoted until August. And that’s why Weeks, who turned 26 last week, will be considered very much a part of what manager Bob Melvin deemed the “open competition” for the second-base position this spring.
Three days later, the Athletics acquired Jed Lowrie in exchange for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi. Now Weeks is buried on the depth chart — either Lowrie or Scott Sizemore is likely to start at second base (with the other starting at third base). Adam Rosales, Josh Donaldson and Eric Sogard all have MLB experience at one if not both of the positions in question, all with the potential to keep him off the roster. Weeks, therefore, has an uphill battle to climb if he is to break camp with Oakland instead of Triple-A Sacramento.
The trade puts the stamp on a precipitous drop for the younger Weeks brother. He was the one player the Athletics deemed untouchable last winter according to Ken Rosenthal’s sources. He had just polished off a brilliant rookie season in which he hit .303/.340/.421 (110 wRC+). A .350 BABIP played a role, but Weeks’s speed could at least explain some of it, and with more experience against major league pitching it wasn’t difficult to see his walk rate rise from a poor 4.8 percent to his minor league norms (in the 8-14 percent range) to offset some of the impending drop.
Although the discipline returned — he walked in 9.8 percent of plate appearances in 2012 — the bottom utterly fell out of his BABIP. He pounded the ball into the ground (49.5 percent of balls in play) and didn’t seem to gain much from his speed — he mustered just a 4.3 percent infield hit rate. He hit 11 fewer doubles despite taking 74 more plate appearances. The final result was a .256 BABIP driving an awful .221/.305/.304 (73 wRC+) line. He earned the boot back to Sacramento 118 games into his second season.
Is there anything left with Weeks? He is already 26, but he has shown a consistent ability to make contact at the major league level (13.9 percent strikeouts in 945 plate appearances). There’s no reason to believe he can’t sport at least a normal BABIP (like his career .301 mark), but without any semblance of power (four career home runs) that isn’t enough to deserve a starting job on a team trying to contend like Oakland. Weeks owns a .260/.321/.360 (90 wRC+) line in his two seasons in Oakland, and with his mediocre-at-best defense at second base, that makes him a well below average player.
Weeks still has options left, and perhaps he flashes what made him so successful in 2011 in spring training or in the early goings at Sacramento to earn a trip back to Oakland. Neither Lowrie nor Sizemore have been beacons of health throughout their careers, and with second base looking like a wasteland — the position put up just a .701 OPS last year, besting only shortstop (.688) — Weeks serves as a perfect second or third option in a situation where one might well be needed.
Still, “good second option” can only be considered a disappointment given the lofty expectations Weeks set with his rookie year. Now, the club who once deemed him untouchable has buried him deep down the depth chart, and he faces a rough climb between him and his old starting role.