|Jemile Weeks | photo - Keith Allison|
By himself, Weeks is not a great haul for even just a single year of Johnson's services. A former first-round pick in 2008 by the A's, Weeks, who turns 27 in January, has not been able to find the same kind of success he had in his rookie season in 2011. That year, he hit .303/.340/.421 (.333 wOBA) in 437 plate appearances while playing below average defense at second base (-4.2 UZR, -6 DRS). Weeks began the 2012 season as the A's opening day second baseman, but he was not good -- at all. In 511 plate appearances that season, Weeks hit .221/.305/.304 (.276 wOBA) and was worse defensively (-7.7 UZR, -14 DRS). In 2011, Weeks's numbers were aided by a .350 BABIP; in 2012, his BABIP was just .256. Also, despite swinging at fewer pitches outside the strikezone in 2012 (from 27.1% to 23.1%), he made much less contact on those same pitches out of the zone (from 78.7% to 71.8%).
|162 Game Avg.||162||695||30||12||3||.258||.319||.357||.677||89|
In 2013, Weeks was banished to Triple-A; he only received nine major league plate appearances in what appears to be a courtesy September call up. In the minors, he batted .271/.376/.369 -- which is good but not great, especially in the power department. But he's always showcased the ability to get on base in the minors; his OBP skills simply have not translated to the major league level yet. And considering he doesn't have much power, is basically an average baserunner (0.3 baserunning runs above average in 223 career games) despite having good speed, and is not good defensively, his upside is extremely limited. So let's be clear: This is not a Chris Davis-type situation. Davis, acquired by Andy MacPhail along with Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara in July 2011, always had plus plus power -- if only he could make contact. No one bet on Davis's emergence coming, but it makes sense in hindsight that he found success once he started chasing fewer pitches and was able to harness his prodigious power. Other than a fluky-ish, BABIP-fueled offensive rookie season, Weeks hasn't been able to showcase any really useful skill at the major league level, nor has any high upside been attached to him from when he was drafted until now. And it's not like any great players were blocking Weeks's path last year. The primary A's second baseman in 2013 was Eric Sogard, with Alberto Callaspo and Adam Rosales playing sparingly as well.
So the O's and Dan Duquette are taking a chance on Weeks, and it's not impossible that he provides something of value to the Orioles at some point. But, again, he's not a great return by himself, which is why this deal may hinge on the player the Orioles will receive later.
As Jon discussed on Monday when speculating where Johnson would land, he hoped the Orioles were targeting teams that were willing to part with a couple of fringe B-level prospects with a low probability / high upside description. Maybe the PTBNL is one of those fringe prospects like Renato Nunez, who the A's signed in 2010 for 2.2 MM and profiles as a potential big bat with poor baserunning and fielding. Whoever that player is, we need to wait for that announcement before firming up our opinion on the probable value of this deal. But for now, what we know is that the Orioles opted for at least one low upside 4-A type player instead of perhaps someone with more potential. And aside from Nate McLouth and to a lesser extent Danny Valencia, those types of acquisitions haven't produced much for the O's. Sometimes it's better to go with the unknown lottery ticket, if it's available, than the guy who we mostly know what he is.
It's also worth wondering if the O's were willing to include some cash along with Johnson if they would have been able to get a better player in return. But that will be something else to discuss once the PTBNL is announced and after the O's finish making their offseason moves. In the end, the Orioles will likely get what Johnson was worth. The Athletics figure at one year Johnson is worth the same that Joe Nathan is getting per year on a two-year contract. They also decided to pass on other interesting arms that might cost less (e.g., John Axford, Grant Balfour, Edward Mujica, Fernando Rodney, and Brian Wilson) without having to throw in two minor league players. In other words, the Athletics consider Johnson to be a very talented player and to pay him as an elite closer. That put the Orioles in a position to get something back from at least them, maybe the Dodgers, maybe others. It would certainly be interesting to know what we cannot: how far the Athletics and others were willing to go in offering high-upside players?
Quick note: Jim Johnson is a class act. That's evident just by reading his quotes on playing in Baltimore and how the team changed these last few years. The Depot wishes Johnson, one of the O's few homegrown talents over the last decade-plus, much success moving forward.
Jon Shepherd contributed to this post.