Cardinals Add Jake Westbrook, Lose Ryan Ludwick

The NL Central figured to be a battleground once again this year, but few, I’m sure, had the Reds in it as late as July. Yet there they are, just a half game behind the St. Louis Cardinals. We’ve heard that the Reds probably won’t make a deal, which leaves the window open for St. Louis. Adding Jake Westbrook could be a move that helps propel them to the Central crown.

The Cardinals have a strong top of the rotation with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Jaime Garcia, but have had trouble filling in the rest of the staff. Brad Penny, who was pitching well before suffering an oblique injury, has faced further setbacks during rehab and his return this season is questionable. Kyle Lohse might return soon, but he was horrible in nine starts this year. Jeff Suppan hasn’t produced the worst results, but with 1.8 homers per nine and more walks than strikeouts he’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Garcia presents an additional problem. While he has pitched better than anyone could have hoped this season, he does have a workload limit. His career high in innings pitched came in 2006 when he threw 155 innings in Class-A. He threw 122 innings in 2008, but last year, because of injury, he managed just 37.2 innings. The Cardinals might keep him in the rotation through the year, but it’s tough to project a pitcher heading into uncharted — or at least recently uncharted — waters. Adding another starter helps hedge that concern.

Westbrook hasn’t had a very good season, a 4.65 ERA to go with a 4.67 FIP and 4.41 xFIP. He missed all of 2009 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, so it’s possible that his results improve as he continues to pitch. He hasn’t realized that type of trend through the season’s first four months, though, so perhaps a significant improvement is a bit optimistic. He is, however, a sinkerballer who will work with a pitching coach who has helped many pitchers develop the pitch successfully. Perhaps his pairing with Dave Duncan will help him rediscover his old form.

It wasn’t all gain for St. Louis, though. As part of the deal they’ll send their starting right fielder, Ryan Ludwick, to San Diego. He’s part of a powerful outfield trio that can not only hit, but also play defense. Ludwick’s three-year UZR/150 is 4.7, which puts him fifth among major league right fielders. It looks like the Cardinals will run with Jon Jay in right. He has hit well in limited time this year, but considering his minor league numbers (.799 OPS in 1767 PA) and his current BABIP (.446). The move will also give Allen Craig, the team’s No. 7 prospect heading into the season, a chance. His minor league numbers are a bit better than Jay’s, a .883 OPS with even better numbers in 829 AAA PA, so this could be his opportunity to claim his spot in right.

Still, it seems a curious trade-off for St. Louis. They’re right around league average in run scoring at 4.40 runs per game, and while Jay and Craig have some potential, it’s unlikely that they’ll replicate Ludwick’s production through the end of the season. Meanwhile they’re taking a gamble with Westbrook. There’s a good chance he’ll improve, both because of the move to the NL and Duncan’s tutelage, but he’s no sure thing. If he continues pitching like he has in Cleveland and Ludwick continues hitting, it will be a net loss.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

23 Responses to “Cardinals Add Jake Westbrook, Lose Ryan Ludwick”

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  1. chuckb says:

    As a Cards’ fan, this is disappointing. We do upgrade the rotation today but at the cost of probably half a win in RF the rest of this year. Plus, we lose the surplus value we would have gained from Ludwick next year. Trading Ludwick to get younger and cheaper would have been a good move this offseason, but we didn’t get enough from Ludwick.

    In a sense, this reminds me of when the Phillies traded Cliff Lee. Neither team really needed to trade that player when they did and, by doing so, made themselves worse. All that said, the upgrade from Suppan to Westbrook will be slightly greater than the downgrade from Ludwick to Jay/Craig in 2010.

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    • WY says:

      “All that said, the upgrade from Suppan to Westbrook will be slightly greater than the downgrade from Ludwick to Jay/Craig in 2010.”

      I think this is the best rationale for this trade. Hopefully it turns out to be true.

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      • gnomez says:

        Problem is, knowing the Cardinals front office, it’ll be Suppan staying in the rotation and Hawksworth getting bumped.

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  2. Andy Brandt says:

    Cards fan.

    Initial reaction, not happy. Ludwick seems to be a player that really cares and tries hard. I side with Bernie Miklasz that we need more offense and I now think we really need more offense. Awesome defensive player, very fun to watch. Wonder when his contract is up.

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  3. gino says:

    Ludwick was way more valuable than this. Cardinals did not get enough in return. Ludwick is highly underrated and will hit a ton of doubles in petco.

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  4. skippyballer486 says:

    I don’t see how this is anything but a negative for the Cards. Ludwick has had at least 2 WAR the past four seasons, including half a season in 2007. He’s already totaled 2.6 this year (although his UZR/150 should be coming down soon). Westbrook had .4 WAR in 08, didn’t pitch in 09, and has 1.0 WAR this year. Unless another deal is coming to add an outfielder, I don’t see the reason to trade Ludwick here.

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    • WY says:

      It doesn’t make sense to compare Westbrook’s WAR to Ludwick’s. It makes more sense to compare Westbrook to the SP he will be replacing and Ludwick to the OFs who will be replacing him. Unfortunately, they were not able to start four OF in their everyday lineup or use a three-man starting rotation (and unfortunately, Ludwick is not qualified to take one of those spots in the starting rotation…).

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      • skippyballer486 says:

        Well, Westbrook’s WAR for the rest of the season will probably be, at best, about .5. So unless Ludwick is being replaced by the recently-cloned Matt Holliday, I still don’t see how this helps the Cardinals.

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    Me no likey.

    [1] I’m not convinced Jay and Craig are good enough to stick. I get a little tired of the constant call up, send down, the Cardinals do with Stavinoha, Mather, Craig, Jay, Thurston, Robinson, etc.
    [2] Ludwick is good, and has been good.
    [3] I don’t want to open 2011 with a 1WAR RF.

    Wasn’t Mitchell Boggs supposed to be a SP prospect?

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      Boggs has pitched so well in the pen I doubt he moves to the rotation any time soon.

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  6. JH says:

    Maybe this will force Tony to play Rasmus every day finally; that should have been Mozeliak’s deadline deal. Not defending the deal, but if Jay was displacing Rasmus, getting Rasmus back in the lineup is a net gain as Rasmus > Ludwick. That said, Ludwick > a Jay / Craig platoon.

    If those two differences can wash, this could be worth a half win to a full win for the Cards with the Westbrook upgrade over Hwaksworth.

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  7. cpebbles says:

    How exactly do the Padres turn two garbage prospects into Ryan Ludwick?

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    • maestro876 says:

      Jed Hoyer is, apparently, good at his job.

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    • maestro876 says:

      Plus I wouldn’t call them garbage prospects. Not top guys, no, but guys who have a decent chance at being something.

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    • intricatenick says:

      It’s not like Ludwick is making peanuts. As it stands, Ludwick would be one of the most highly paid Padres next year. In the long term this is a slight help to the Cardinals in terms of payroll flexibility. We’re talking Pujols extension. Jay gives the Cards less total wins, but is an upgrade over Ludwick when considering WAR / $$$. If it ends up being an even trade over 2010 (which it may not be) this deal is a win. At any rate, you have to weigh the future flex vs. the initial year impact.

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      • cpebbles says:

        If you just consider WAR / $$$ for some reason, any pre-arbitration player who is at all better than replacement-level is a better buy than anyone who is into his arbitration years. Ludwick is not making negligible money, but he’s probably a true-talent 3 win player making $5.45 million this year and likely due to make around $8 million in 2011. He’s got a surplus value of around $8 million.

        I’m pretty skeptical that a 24 year old having his breakout year repeating AA and an unimpressive A-baller who was taken in the 14th round last year has that much value.

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  8. CircleChange11 says:

    I agree somewhat about Boggs, but they could likely acquire a good middle reliever for less than Ryan Ludwick.

    But they may also feel that Boggs isn’t ready for the rotation or that pitching in relief is part of his development … that strategy has worked well for some other pitchers.

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    • Bad Bill says:

      They might have been able to get a useful starter for “less than Ryan Ludwick,” but I am unconvinced that they could have got one for something less DISPENSABLE than Ryan Ludwick, particularly when salary is taken into account. I like this move for the Cardinals. (The team that gives me the “what were they thinking?” reaction out of the three is Cleveland; San Diego also looks to have profited by getting Luddy, because he patches a weakness.)

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      • jirish says:

        Cleveland simply needs to move as much money as they can off of the books. They have the lowest attendance of any team this year. Any salary they move is helpful to them at this point. They would like Westbrook to come back next year, but there is no guarantee that he will re-sign. So they dump the salary now, take the AA pitcher, and talk to Westbrook in the off season.

        I am a Pads fan, so I’m incredibly happy to have Ryan Ludwick aboard, and even happier because we didn’t have to lose someone we couldn’t replace.

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  9. miamidon says:

    Help me out here, does a player like Ludwick truly have any trade value gong into his third arbitration contract?

    My thinking is a team would have to have Ludwick’s contract figured out first so wouldn’t you have to tender him to be able to trade him? Aren’t you looking at him signing a one-year contract for $8M then finding a team that will take that contract as well as agreeing on return players?

    Am I missing that he has minimal trade value this winter? Are there any other examples of players getting traded being an arbitration 3 with an $8M contract or even trading for a similar tenured player then signing that player to an extension?

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    • Samuel says:

      Ludwick still provides surplus value over a likely $8M arbitration award, so there definitely is some value there. Also, it’s likely he’ll be a Type A free agent, or at least a Type B, so that’s even more value if you get him for next year as, barring any kind of catastrophic injury, you’ll be getting draft picks back in return, as well.

      The deal for Westbrook was salary neutral for the Cardinals, supposedly, so they got a lot of the surplus value back in cash from the Indians since Westbrook was owed a lot more than Ludwick for the rest of the season.

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  10. Rally says:

    I hope they give lots of playing time to Jon Jay. He needs a nickname, and it should be “The Federalist”. Help me out people, spread the news. This must stick.

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    • Joe Pawlikowski says:
      FanGraphs Supporting Member

      I’m down with The Federalist, but apparently he’s already got The Chief Justice. I’m fine with that, too.

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