When Dan Hayes’ reported that Headley’s Super Two status might force the Padres to trade Ryan Ludwick, my first thought was “Oh hell no. Trade Headley.”
Don’t get me wrong, I like Headley fine. I’ll be the first to ring the “pitching and defense” bell, and Headley was as good as it got at third base this year. But Ludwick? He’s no slouch himself (career UZR/150 of 5.1 round the outfield) and he’s the team’s only legit middle of the order hitter other than Adrian. If we move Ludwick, who’s going to hit cleanup?
The better question is why we think Ludwick should hit cleanup hitter himself.
In 2008, Ludwick made a name for himself by hitting 37 home runs but he’s hit 39 total over the past two seasons. Despite his 154 in 08, Ludwick has a career wRC+ of 117 and Bill James projects a 115 for him in 2011. And he’ll likely make in excess of $7 million next year.
Ludwick’s been a starter for four years and throwing out his yet to be duplicated 2008, he’s been a 2-win player. Last year, Headley was somewhere between a 3.7 and a 4.6-win player, depending on if you prefer Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs’ numbers. In 1,675 plate appearances, Headley’s only hit 32 home runs and while he plans on hitting the gym this winter, even if he doesn’t, his glove should still provide enough value to this team to make him a keeper.
It’s easy to look at these Padres and think that something needs to be done about the offense, but they weren’t that bad offensively last year. Though it ranked 20th in the league, the team’s wRC+ was a respectable 97. They fell apart in September (82 wRC+), and Headley was especially awful (58 wRC+), but that likely speaks more to conditioning and depth that it does talent and ability. With the exception of Tejada and Torrealba, the team will be bringing back all of the same hitters worth bringing back and hopefully that means more of the same.
In fairness to Ludwick, he was never who we expected him to be. He’s not the -0.3-win Ughwick we saw in August and September, but he’s not someone who will scare pitchers into giving Adrian some fastballs. The potential is there (he hit 18 home runs away from Busch Stadium last year) but while Maybin is a low-risk roll of the dice, Ludwick has $7 million riding on his. With only $10 million available to fill holes at second, short, in the rotation and on the bench, is the smarter risk to go into the crevasse, opening a hole in left to better fill all the others?
Probably. But I’ll defer to Jed on this one.
UPDATE: According to Jeff Fletcher, the Padres will offer Ludwick arbitration. Here we go.