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.