PHOENIX -- Add Rickie Weeks' name to the list of homegrown Brewers locked up for the long term. Weeks, the team's 28-year-old second baseman and leadoff hitter, signed a contract extension Wednesday that guarantees $38.5 million over the next four years and could pay $50 million over five years if he remains a fixture of the starting lineup. The only trouble was deciding what to call it. In making their announcement on Wednesday afternoon, the Brewers termed it a four-year contract with a vesting option. But Weeks' agent, Greg Genske, preferred to call it a five-year contract. Either way, Weeks, the second overall pick in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, won't be changing uniforms any time soon.
The deal erased the need for an arbitration hearing scheduled for Thursday. It covers Weeks' final year of arbitration plus at least three and perhaps four years of free agency. "You look for 'comfortability,' I guess," he said. "I know the organization. I grew up here, basically. If the right time, the right thing [presented] itself, I was going to be here for a long time. That's why I made my decision." Genske told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Weeks received a $4 million signing bonus and a $3.5 million salary for 2011. He'll earn $10 million in 2012, $10 million in 2013 and $11 million in 2014. Weeks will get another $11.5 million in 2015 if he tops 600 plate appearances in 2014 or combines for 1,200 appearances in 2013-14, and finishes the 2014 season healthy. If he's injured at the end of 2014, a doctor must certify that Weeks will be healthy for the start of 2015 in order for the fifth year to vest. If Weeks does not reach those plate appearance milestones, or is injured to the point he would miss the start of 2015, the Brewers can void the fifth year of the contract. But Genske said the team would still owe Weeks $1 million if he has at least 400 plate appearances in 2014. "I think it's an ultimate compromise," said Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who handled negotiations. "Greg had always talked to us about the need to do five guaranteed years, and we had always talked about the need to do four years plus a vesting option." Weeks is only the latest player developed by the Brewers to ink a long-term extension. Left fielder Ryan Braun is signed through 2015, right-hander Yovani Gallardo through 2014 and right fielder Corey Hart through 2013. Outside acquisitions like starters Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf and 2010 RBI leader Casey McGehee are also under team control through at least 2013. With Weeks under wraps, the Brewers face only one major potential departure following the 2011 season: first baseman Prince Fielder. Wednesday's agreement came on the eve of a scheduled arbitration hearing in Phoenix in which Weeks would have sought a raise to $7.2 million. The Brewers countered at $4.85 million. All winter, Ash and Genske had worked to find common ground on his value. On one hand, Weeks was coming off a breakthrough 2010 season, having led the Majors in home runs (28), RBIs (81) and runs scored (110) from the leadoff spot while earning $2.75 million. On the other hand, it was Weeks' first injury-free season in years. He's had surgery for hand, wrist and knee injuries in his career, averaged 94 games in his first four full Major League seasons. So the Brewers balked when Genske compared Weeks to Braves second baseman Dan Uggla, who agreed to a five-year, $62 million extension last month. Slowly but surely, the sides came together. Talks began in December at the Winter Meetings, intensified in mid-January and then cooled just as the sides exchanged figures in arbitration. The discussion picked up again this month, and the sides reached at least the framework of an agreement late last week. The final details were worked out on Wednesday and Weeks underwent his physical exam. "We think he still has upside," Ash said. "In addition to that, and just as important, we think he's a tremendous professional, very dedicated, very driven to excel, and the kind of player you hope all Brewers would be. "I should add that I think it's very important that this is a player that has made a statement he wants to stay here. ... This is a place he thinks he thinks is comfortable and a legitimate place to play championship baseball." It was not difficult to connect that final comment to the Brewers' extension talks last year with Fielder. The Brewers and agent Scott Boras never got very far in those discussions. Weeks, though, is locked up for the long term, and the Brewers view him as a potential middle-of-the-order hitter should Fielder move on after 2011. For now, Weeks is expected to remain Milwaukee's leadoff man. Many of his teammates offered their congratulations on Wednesday. "You'd love to see a guy like [Weeks] stick around because there's not another second baseman like him," McGehee said. "He's one of those rare guys with the power/speed combination and he's the kind of player who shows up to work every day with an ultra-competitive attitude. You want those guys on your team. "Considering he went through last year healthy like he did, I imagine he believes he's ready to take off. I'd much rather see him do that with us than someone else down the road."