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.
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