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Padres Acquire Ludwick

The Padres acquired outfielder Ryan Ludwick from the Cardinals in a three-way deal that also sent Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook to St. Louis. The Padres sent minor-league right-hander Corey Kluber to Cleveland and minor-league left-hander Nick Greenwood to the Cardinals.

Ludwick is the second right-handed bat acquired by GM Jed Hoyer in the days (and hours) leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. The difference is that where Miguel Tejada’s value lies in his name and the appearance of commitment to 2010, Ludwick provides the Padres with a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat who should help bolster the offense while also playing solid defense in left and right field.

Of the Ludwick acquisition, Hoyer said, “We needed some thump in the lineup. Our corner outfield production has been below par.” That is something of an understatement. In fact, the Padres have gotten less out of their left fielders than any other team in 2010:

      BA  OBP  SLG
SD  .209 .297 .298
MLB .270 .337 .434

When your left fielders have a lower OBP than Mark Belanger and a lower SLG than Ed Brinkman, that is a problem. So is having to rely on Chris Denorfia and Aaron Cunningham (demoted to make room for Tejada). Those guys have been great stories, but really… it’s not good that I’m upset about Cunningham’s demotion. The Padres’ success or failure should not hinge on a player of his caliber.

Right field has been a little better, as the Padres rank 22nd out of 30 in OPS at the position:

      BA  OBP  SLG
SD  .257 .325 .433
MLB .273 .346 .449

Still, add in a no-hit center fielder (Tony Gwynn Jr.), and you’re looking at the least productive outfield in MLB.

As for the cost, Hoyer correctly notes that the Padres gave up precious little to acquire Tejada and Ludwick. I discussed Pelzer the other day, and although I like Kluber more (Tom Krasovic calls him a “No. 4 or 5 starter”, which sounds about right to me in terms of upside), neither is an impact player. Greenwood is less than that.

I’m intrigued by Hoyer’s approach to making trades. He’s more subtle than his predecessor, who seemed to employ Jedi mind tricks in getting his partners to part with too much for too little. Hoyer appears to give value for value, which is both novel and potentially effective for the long haul. Not many people can do what Kevin Towers did, and I like that Hoyer has his own distinct style.

In sending Pelzer to Baltimore, he gave the Orioles a power arm that might develop into a setup man. Given that Tejada is old, expensive, and unproductive, there was no downside to this move on their part, and Hoyer deserves credit for recognizing that. Pelzer could turn into something, or he could be nothing. The Padres finally have enough depth in their system (thank you, Grady Fuson) that it’s no trouble to part with a guy like Pelzer.

Regarding Kluber, I’ve been accused of having a man crush on him. His fastball sits in the low-90s and he complements it with a sharp slider. He works down in the zone and he is aggressive. Except for an overpowering fastball, he has everything I like in a pitcher. Kluber, for his part, is excited about his new opportunity in Cleveland.

Frankly, so am I. He’s in the same category as David Freese was a few years ago: good player, a little old for his level, probably not going to get a shot in San Diego. I hope Kluber succeeds with the Indians. It will be good for him and reflect well on the Padres organization, thus encouraging teams to trade for San Diego prospects again in the future.

I like what Hoyer has done (so does Bud Black). I like what Ludwick should do (even if he will cost money next year). The only thing left to do now is win it all. There’s the plan; go execute it.

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10 Responses »

  1. I’m okay with the trade but feel that it’s unnecessary. Ludwick isn’t that much better than Denorfia, who’s been better than okay.
    The Tejada trade is a bigger scratcher. Why, he was good once but no more. Otoh, you are right that the moves haven’t cost the Padres much.

    I still wish for a starting pitcher. Myers is out since Astros re-signed him, Lilly going to Dodgers certainly isn’t a good thing, Westbrook to Cardinals…there aren’t that many choices even for just an inning eater.

    The Padres may have to get creative with the rotation and bullpen uses.

  2. I love these moves. Tejada doesn’t have much left, but he’s got a lot of positive energy and will be more productive than Cabrera. Ludwick is a legitimate bat, and a solid OF.
    If the Pads could get another SP off of waivers, that would be great.

  3. Where did you get the major league composites for avg., OB% and slugging? I’m interested in finding out what the composites are for center field, so I can see just how lousy Tony Gwynn really is.

  4. @Didi: The key difference between Denorfia and Ludwick is track record. Denorfia is a great story, but he’s produced at his current level for less than 200 PA; Ludwick has done it for more than 2000.

    Also, I think they are going to get creative. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Tim Stauffer in the rotation at some point.

    @John: You can get those here. The current MLB line for CF is .262/.328/.408. There are 21 men who have at least 300 PA and who have played at least 80% of their games in CF. Gwynn ranks 18th in OPS+ (79), ahead of only Nyjer Morgan (76), Michael Bourn (76), and Julio Borbon (74).

  5. Okay, Geoff, since Gwynn, Jr. has been brought up, and you have all this inside info and sources, what’s the REAL story on TGJ’s hitting regression?

    I remember last year’s story about TGJ in the cage with his dad watching and Randy Ready coming up and asking TGS what he thought of his son’s batting stance. TGS answered “I hate it”, and Ready chimed in “You’re right. Pee-yew.” or words to that effect.

    That led me to believe Junior doesn’t take advice from his dad or Ready, and wants to do it his way. Considering the quality of the advice he has available, the fact he’s turned himself into a .230 hitter from a .270 hitter doesn’t look promising. I think he leads the team in taking driveable pitches for strikes.

    What do your “deep throat” sources tell you about Gwynn Jr.’s future on the club? How long will his name and UZR keep him on the roster?

  6. @Larry: I don’t think there’s an issue with TGJ not taking advice. In fact, he totally revamped his stance during spring training based on Ready’s advice.

    The real problem, IMHO, is that TGJ isn’t a big-league hitter. Remember, this is a guy who owns a career .275 BA in the minors. The .270 BA we saw last year was a mirage. It’s not that he turned himself into a .230 hitter so much as that’s what he was all along, with the hot start (.348 in his first 27 games with the Padres, .246 the rest of the way in ’09) obscuring the fact.

    That said, I’ve come around a little on TGJ. He’s improved his defense and baserunning to the point where I think he belongs here for the short term and may well end up being a useful fourth outfielder in the long run. That said, I hope Cedric Hunter and/or Blake Tekotte will push him hard next spring.

  7. TGJ did rework his stance completely, from the 2009 Praying Mantis to something that doesn’t violate the principles of biomechanics. But all the instruction in the world doesn’t replace physical ability.

    As GY notes, though, his defense and basrerunning have been real. And spectacular. He seems to honestly be the team’s best option in CF, even though his offense is so much worse than the other OF’s on the roster (not to mention Cunningham). Might see SHairston or Denorfia get more starts in center against lefties, with Gwynn the Younger coming in late.

    SHairston’s misadventures this weekend aside, all our OF can play some serious defense. I’d be tempted to put Ludwick in LF, because Petco’s RF is big and quirky, but he’s been an excellent RF. Denorfia and Venable in left are almost like having another CF.

    Very surprised we went for Tejada instead of a SP. It sounds like we’d crossed Lilly off the list days ago. Guess we’re going to keep dancing with the ones who brought us, pitching-wise.

  8. You know what I like about TGJ? He’s a winner. He performs well in big spots — whether it’s a nice catch, a sac bunt, a base hit, a stolen base… whatever. The guy always seems to do the right thing at the right time.

    That being said, it would be great if he could hit .250; apparently he’s not shaving his beard until he gets there. He could have a Santa Claus-length beard by the end of September.

  9. Someone mentioned here somewhere, getting Ludwick from the Cardinals is taking a bat and a glove away from their lineup to add to the Padres’. Excellent point that I hope will show up favorably for the home team should the two teams meet in the playoffs.

    Don’t look too far ahead, the Giants are gaining ground fast.