It wasn’t that long ago that Ryan Ludwick was the shining star hitting cleanup for the Cincinnati Reds. Despite his age, optimism surrounding the thought of the Reds finally having a consistent power bat to insert into the middle of their lineup.
Then opening day 2013 happened and the Reds lost Ludwick to a shoulder injury.
At 35 years old, and facing a mutual option for 2015, it seems likely that now is the time for the Reds to consider future options to take over permanently in left field. But is that time right now or in 2015?
While some may clamor for Chris Heisey to be the answer in left field, he has shown an inability to secure the position despite his ample opportunities. Ludwick has been fairly solid for the Reds so far in 2014 as he is hitting .269 with two home runs, 14 runs batted in and a .340 on-base percentage. But perhaps there are ways to improve the position.
How to improve: One very intriguing player to consider is Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians. Nine years younger than Ludwick, Brantley would instantly provide youth to an aging position. With a career .277 batting average and .330 on-base percentage, Brantley would provide the Reds with arguably the same base-reaching ability as Ludwick. Over the past four years, Ludwick had 181 RBIs while Brantley has 205 (with 15 less home runs).
Brantley will also provide the Reds with another base-running threat, as he has collected double-digit steals in each of the past four seasons. For the majority of his career, Brantley has batted lead-off for the Indians and could provide a lethal one-two punch with Billy Hamilton (or provide the team with a nice backup plan in case of injuries).
Acquiring Brantley would require a decent package from the Reds — perhaps something along the lines of their previous trade with the Indians for Shin-Soo Choo. A trade involving Aroldis Chapman for Brantley would not happen unless the Indians were willing to include additional high-ranking prospects as well.