The incumbent: Rickie Weeks. When speaking to Brewers fans about Rickie Weeks, two words invariably come up: potential and disappointment. Coming out of college, Rickie had a lot of tools and a lot of upside. The 2003 Golden Spikes award winner, Rickie was drafted second overall by the Brewers just after Delmon Young and ahead of players like John Danks, Paul Maholm and Conor Jackson. While Rickie has shown flashes, injuries and inconsistency have plagued his career. Subpar defense and an inability to get on-base out of the leadoff spot has thrown Rickie out of favor with many Brewers fans.
2009 outlook: Many national pundits view this as an area of need and I can't say that I disagree however the Brewers do not have any major prospects waiting in the wings and the second base free agent class is not inspiring. While Orlando Hudson is available, he will price himself out of the Brewers plans. After Hudson, you see names like Ray Durham, Mark Grudzielanek, Tad Iguchi and Mark Loretta. While most will be an upgrade on defense, none of those names can be seen as a savior for the Brewers.
As far as prospects are concerned, Hernan Iribarren has experience at second base in the minors, but judging by the numbers he has put up at AAA and from what I've seen in limited time up with the Brewers, Hernan is far from ready to be an everyday player in the majors. There has been some talk of bringing up top prospect Alcides Escobar and sliding Hardy over to second or third. If the move is to second, this upgrades the range at shortstop but with Hardy's canon of an arm and limited range, a move to third seems to make more sense. Not to mention, the all-star shortstop would have to consent to a position change and could upset the clubhouse.
Finally, a trade is always an option but can be difficult to do without creating another hole at a different position. Brian Roberts is the sexy name out there right now, but word out of Baltimore is they would like to keep him long-term but may consider a trade if an extension can not be made. The only problem with this is the Orioles seem to be looking for a shortstop, which is a position of depth, but I can't see the Brewers giving up an all-star (Hardy) or a top prospect (Escobar) unless Roberts is willing to sign long-term with the Brewers.
Final Word: I'm going to make the case that Rickie Weeks may be the best option for the Brewers going into the 2009 season. Given his below average performance, he is going to be relatively cheap coming out of arbitration, allowing the Brewers to allocate financial resources to other positions of need. Also, I know Brewers fans are tired of hearing that he's going to break through, but you don't hit .490+ and slug .980+ in college by accident. I believe that if the Brewers bring Escobar up to play short and slide Hardy to third, this would give the Brewers a better option at leadoff in Escobar, allowing Weeks to move down in the lineup and utilize his power more effectively. We'll have to see what Doug Melvin has up his sleeves. On Deck: Center Field