Two nights ago, the Red Sox made a late-night trade with the Orioles, sending utility man Kelly Johnson and infield prospect Michael Almanzar to Baltimore in exchange for infielders Jemile Weeks and Ivan DeJesus. On the surface, it’s a minor trade which is unlikely to have any major longterm effects on the future of the Red Sox, but it’s possible that there’s a chance, however small, that Weeks could play a role with the Red Sox going forward.
Just three years ago, Weeks was in the midst of a strong debut season for the Oakland Athletics. A highly-touted infield prospect, he slashed .303/.340/.421 with 22 stolen bases as a 24-year old and was one of few bright spots on a terrible A’s team. As Oakland has shifted from a cellar-dwellar in the AL West to a legitimate playoff contender, however, Weeks has shifted from a promising youngster to a non-factor.
In the 2011-2012 offseason, Oakland general manager Billy Beane named Weeks the only untouchable player in a seemingly-barren Athletics organization. However, Beane’s faith would not be rewarded after Weeks won the starting second base job in spring training of 2012.
Through 118 games in the 2012 season, Weeks slashed a mere .221/.305/.304 and stole 16 bases on a surprising A’s team which finished first in the AL West, finding himself either on the bench or in Triple-A Sacramento for much of the stretch run of the season. In 2013, the once-promising second baseman played only 8 games in the Major Leagues as the A’s once again won their division. That offseason, Weeks was an throw-in in the trade which sent closer Jim Johnson to Oakland and found himself in Baltimore to begin the 2014 season.
However, Weeks hasn’t had any more playing time with the Orioles as he has played just 3 games in Baltimore this season and has spent the majority of his time with Triple-A Norfolk, where he has slashed .280/.392/.391 with only 8 stolen bases. Even with Weeks’ free fall from success in the first few seasons of his career, however, there is still hope for him in Boston.
With Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts ahead of him on the depth chart, there is no pressure for Weeks to become Boston’s starting second baseman, thus expectations will be lower for the 27-year old. Weeks’ home will be the bench, where he will be able to put his natural athleticism to use in a more concentrated fashion. The Red Sox would give Weeks occasional spot starts at both second base and in the outfield, where the A’s began to experiment with him last season, but his real value would come as a pinch-runner.
Weeks has excellent speed, a trait which would play well on a relatively slow Red Sox team. Even if he won’t bring the team a ton of value with the bat, and there is still some slight hope that he could one day recover at the plate, the Red Sox would be able to spare a roster spot for him because of his game-changing speed and versatility (though that is less of a factor with Brock Holt on the team). That’s no guarantee that Weeks will ever become even a role player on the Red Sox roster; however, given that Johnson was a free agent at the end of the season and Almanzar is a relatively insignificant prospect, the Red Sox may have won this trade just on the chance that Weeks ever approaches his potential.