This trade has caused some head-scratching ...
- The NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals made a three-team trade Saturday, getting pitcher Jake Westbrook from Cleveland and sending outfielder Ryan Ludwick to NL West-leading San Diego.
The 32-year-old Ludwick broke into the majors with Texas in 2002, and became an everyday player when he joined the Cardinals. He's a career .272 hitter whose best season came in 2008, when he hit 37 homers and had 113 RBIs and was an All-Star.
Ludwick hit .281 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs this season. He was eligible for free agency after this season and the Cardinals already have a number of high-priced players such as Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Plus, rookie outfielder Jon Jay has had a huge July.
The Indians got Double-A pitcher Corey Kluber from San Diego. The 24-year-old righty was 6-6 with a 3.45 ERA at Double-A and led the Texas League in strikeouts.Some of my (usually) like-minded colleagues are wondering why the Cardinals would seemingly give away Ryan Ludwick, whose line since 2008 is .271/.334/.460.
Meanwhile, Jay's line in 194 career Triple-A games is .295/.356/.424.
But Jay's getting better and Ludwick probably isn't.
Also, there's this: Jay is hitting .400 in the majors!
Well, .396 if you want be precise. If he gets a hit in his first at-bat tonight, he'll top .400.
Is he really this good? Of course not.
But he's hitting (almost) .400 in 48 games, and he's going to play regardless of Ryan Ludwick's presence. And Jay bats left-handed, so he's going to play a lot. Should we really expect the Cardinals to look at Jay's pre-2010 stats -- he was solid in Triple-A this spring -- instead of what they've seen with their own eyes, so recently?
Jay has to play, and now the Cardinals just have to figure out whether or not to find him a platoon partner (a good thing, probably).
Meanwhile, the Cardinals' loss is the Padres' gain. Again just looking at the past two seasons (which is hardly fair), Ludwick's got a 110 OPS+. That's not good for a corner outfielder ... but would rank second among the Padres' every-day hitters this season and first among their outfielders.
Or second, depending on how you look at it. If I've got a problem with the acquisition, it's that the Padres already have Chris Denorfia, another righty-hitting outfielder who's not great, but is good enough to play. Will they set up platoons in both corners?
I don't know. But Ludwick's presence won't help much if Denorfia loses playing time against lefties.
Meanwhile, Westbrook is what he is: a perfectly serviceable No. 4 or 5 starter. This season he's doing what he always does, and it's certainly possible that he'll move up a tick under Dave Duncan's tutelage (though Duncan's magic hasn't worked on Jeff Suppan).
Corey Kluber's a 24-year-old Double-A pitcher with a 4.29 career ERA in the minors. He's pitched well this season and certainly qualifies as a prospect. But just barely. The Indians are smart to get him, and the Padres are smart to give him up.
I don't see any losers in this deal. But it's early.