The writing isn’t quite on the wall for Ryan Ludwick and the Cincinnati Reds, but … let’s just say that his tenure with the team is far from being on solid ground.
It’s no secret that despite rumors of the team looking to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips, the team is still looking for offense with Shin-Soo Choo‘s return as a free agent in serious doubt. That they’re looking for it in left field, however, is where the 35-year old should be concerned. If the Reds so manage to convince Carlos Beltran to sign as per rumors, it’s likely that they’d honor his wishes to play in left, where his arm strength won’t be quite as much of a factor.
That, of course, would leave Ludwick in a backup/fourth outfielder kind of role, at least on paper.
The problem? Well, for one, he makes way too much money not to be starting with $8.5 million owed to him in 2014, and either a $4.5 million buyout or $9 million mutual option still to come in 2015. The bigger thing, however, is that he’s not really fit to be a backup as he lacks the versatility or the arm to play anywhere besides left field, with the team carrying much better options in newly-acquired utility man Skip Schumaker, not to mention Xavier Paul and Chris Heisey.
Not that Beltran is a done deal or anything, but that the team is in pursuit says a whole lot about how they see their left field situation, no?
It’s not like you could totally blame the team, even though there wasn’t much the Ludwick could have done about it after suffering a shoulder injury cause caused him to miss most of the season. By the time he made it back to the bigs at the end of the summer, the results were largely to be expected as he was nothing like the 2.6 fWAR player from 2012, posting a .240/.293/.326 triple-slash over 140 PA for a 70 wRC+.
Could he bounce back to the point that earned him the contract to begin with? There’s a potential for it, though neither age nor health is on his side, and the team would probably rather it be someone else’s problem. Should they manage to acquire a full-time left fielder like Beltran to take over for Ludwick, it’s likely that Cincinnati will have have to eat a good chunk of money just to have the latter play elsewhere.
If that’s how they plan on going forward, however, they’ll probably want to make something happen sooner rather than later. After all, the worst-case scenario would have him struggling at replacement (or below) levels once more, completely sinking any remaining trade value, while the Reds would end up playing Heisey there anyway.
Even at age 36 himself, Beltran sounds a whole lot better than that scenario, no?