It appears that former Cardinals outfielder Ryan Ludwick's best chance to find a major league job appears to be in Oakland.
The Athletics, who will sign fellow former Cardinals flychaser Covelli "Coco" Crisp, are rumored to be talking with Ludwick about a one-year deal during which the 33 year old would have a chance to rediscover his power stroke. And there doesn't seem to be much interest otherwise.
Unfortunately, Oakland isn't a great place to do that. It's a cavernous ballpark dominated by the huge football stands in the outfield dubbed "Mt. Davis." And the ball carries notoriously poorly there at night games. But Ludwick can't afford to be choosy. Ever since the Cardinals traded him to San Diego in a three-way deal in 2010 that landed Jake Westbrook for St. Louis, his numbers have been on the slide.
After batting .281 with 11 homers in 77 games for the Cardinals in 2010, Ludwick batted only .211 with six homers in 59 games for the Padres. San Diego surprisingly offered Ludwick a contract for 2011 and he hit .238 with 11 homers in 101 games after getting off to a terrible start.
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Luddy seemed like he got a break when he was swapped to the Pirates near the trade deadline. He was going to a much more hitter-friendly ballpark and to a team that was in competition for a playoff spot at the time. But he disappointed there with a .232 average and two homers.
That poor audition seems to have soured team on giving Ludwick a guaranteed major league contract. The Cardinals might have signed Ludwick on the cheap if they thought he was capable of hitting like he did in St. Louis from 2008-10 when he averaged .280 with 24 homers and 87 RBIs instead of forking over $13 million a year to Carlos Beltran. But it doesn't seem like that option was even entertained. Nor did the Pirates have any interest in bringing back Ludwick who could have been a low cost, high upside outfield bat.
It's a shame to see things fade so quickly for Ludwick, a guy who struggled mightily to make the major leagues after a horrific leg injury derailed his train to the majors early in his career. I hope he can turn things around. But I wonder if the Cardinals anticipated this fall when they dealt Ludwick away -- the the chagrin of the fan base -- to land Westbrook.
While Westbrook wasn't spectacular in 2011, the Cardinals got a lot more value for their money than they would have received if they paid Ludwick $7.5 million to hit in the .230s.