The Cincinnati Reds couldn’t have anticipated what would happen when they decided to ink right-handed hitter Ryan Ludwick to a two-year, $15 million deal after a 2012 season in which Ludwick clubbed 26 homers and drove in 80 runs.
But one ill-advised head first slide later (on opening day of 2013) and nearly two-thirds into the 2014 season, the Reds are regretting every penny of the deal.
Ludwick has just eight homers and 39 RBIs in the 419 plate appearances he’s had combined in 2013 and 2014. Whereas it looked like the Reds would have a reliable cleanup hitter for two years, they’ve instead had a bust signing.
The Reds aren’t likely to have anything to do with the $9 million mutual option to keep Ludwick in 2015, but they will be on the hook for a $4.5 million buyout to have him play for another team next year.
Despite the bad deal, Ludwick does have some value left for the Reds. For starters, he’s still the most consistent hitting left fielder the team has. Chris Heisey just hasn’t proven he can be consistent enough to be an everyday left fielder, and the Reds shouldn’t try to make him that now. Skip Schumaker is a decent left-handed pinch-hitter and spot starter in the outfield, but he lacks the track record of power production that Ludwick has.
Until the Reds throw in the towel on 2014 or trade for an impact hitting left-fielder, Ludwick should start virtually every game.
That way the Reds can keep a proven power hitter in the lineup and also keep their options open after the non-waiver trade deadline in the event that another team sees enough value left in Ludwick to rent him for the rest of 2014 at the cost of paying his $4.5 million buyout next year.