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By trading Ryan Ludwick the Cardinals are counting on Jon Jay being for real

Aug 2, 2010, 12:44 PM EDT

St. Louis ranks just ninth among National League teams in runs scored–compared to second in runs allowed–and prior to Saturday’s trade deadline many people felt the Cardinals would be in the market for an offensive upgrade.
Instead they traded one of their best hitters, right fielder Ryan Ludwick, to the Padres in a three-team deal that netted them Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook. I’m no longer surprised when Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan works his magic on a veteran pitcher, but Westbrook certainly doesn’t seem like a particularly impactful pickup.
After missing all of last season following Tommy John elbow surgery he returned to go 6-7 with a 4.65 ERA and 73/44 K/BB ratio in 127.2 innings and serves as merely the fourth starter in the Cardinals’ rotation behind Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Jaime Garcia. Picking up Westbrook certainly wasn’t a bad idea, but parting with Ludwick to get him seems like an odd decision.
Clearly the Cardinals feel comfortable handing Ludwick’s job to rookie Jon Jay, who’s hit .378 with a 1.000 OPS in 50 games. If he continues to hit like Roy Hobbs obviously Ludwick won’t be missed, but Jay batted just .295/.356/.424 in 194 games at Triple-A and owns a career slugging percentage of .432 in 1,564 at-bats as a minor leaguer.
Once he comes back down to earth as merely a useful role player the Cardinals are likely to miss Ludwick’s bat, both this season and next. Before the trade Ludwick hit .281/.343/.484 in 77 games this year and batted .280/.349/.507 with an average of 26 homers per 150 games during four seasons in St. Louis. Parting with that production and counting on a 25-year-old rookie with a mediocre minor-league track record to replace it just to bring in a decent fourth starter seems like a risk without much payoff.

  1. flavius217 - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    The Statesman’s BABIP and batting average on line drives just beg for a meteoric regression.

  2. Sara - Aug 2, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    I hope it also means that Rasmus is now to be considered an everyday starter.

  3. Levi Stahl - Aug 2, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    I liked Ludwick a lot, and I’ll miss watching him, but I’m not sure this is a bad deal.
    I think Sara’s hit on a key point: Rasmus (who, admittedly, had been slumping) had been losing playing time to Jay lately, and by taking one piece out of the puzzle, Mozeliak has essentially forced LaRussa to give Rasmus more at-bats. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to imagine a platoon of Jay and Allen Craig coming reasonably close to matching Ludwick’s production the rest of this year.

  4. ryanbyrne19 - Aug 2, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    Cards need to free up money to resign Pujols. Ludwick ‘s contract is about 5.5 mil for this year and he is going to probably get a raise on that heading into his 3rd arbitration year for 2011. He is a FA in 2012.

  5. Paper Lions - Aug 2, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    Next year Ludwick would have been in line to make $8-9M in arbitration. They weren’t going to be able to pay that, so instead of getting nothing, they replace him with Westbrook. This also will help keep Rasmus on the field, assuming LaRussa ever subscribes to the “playing your best players is the best idea” philosophy. In addition, LaRussa LOVES LOVES LOVES to have some lefty-right platoons, and now he is more balanced with Jay (L) and Craig (R) and Winn (S).
    I like Luddy, but he was hurt a little too often and LaRussa refused to play him everyday when he was healthy. I wish nothing but the best for him.

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