Ryan Ludwick and Cards Reach Deal for 2010


Ryan Ludwick and the Cardinals reached an agreement to avoid arbitration, keeping the right fielder in St. Louis for 2010. The deal is reportedly good for one year at the price of $5.45 million. At $5 million, this deal could be a bargain for the Cards. Ludwick solidifies the middle of the lineup and provides even more pop to complement the big bats of Pujols and Holliday. With that trio most likely in the 3-4-5 slots, opposing pitching staffs will have their hands full. The signing of Ludwick is significant for the club as it adds depth to a lineup that has been a weakness in the past.

With Matt Holliday now comfortable in St. Louis and ready to roll for an entire season, the Cards lineup could be one of the best the organization has had in quite some time. Before, the Cardinals were seen as a one-man show called Pujols. Now, Holliday and Ludwick pose a serious threat as perhaps the best three-man punch outside of the defending NL champion Philadelphia Phillies. Utley, Howard, and Werth may hold the edge, but the Cardinals cast isn’t far behind. Ludwick is the X-factor that could push the lineup and the team to that next level.

The 31 year old is entering his third full season in the bigs, and hopes to return to his first year for the Cards. In 2008, he was among the best in the league at the dish: .299 average, 37 homers, 113 RBIs, and 104 runs. He emerged as the protection Albert had been waiting for. Then in 2009, he took a small step back from his impressive start. He batted .265, hit 22 dingers, drove in 97, and touched home only 63 times. While the numbers appear to be pedestrian, 97 RBIs are still very valuable. Any player that can drive in 100 runs can find a place in the MLB, and the Cards should be happy to have him. Add to that the possibility that Ludwick returns to his sparkling form in 2008 and now you see the bargain that he is.

Besides the firepower that Ludwick brings, his quick signing also allows the Cardinals to shift focus to the few loose ends that remain this offseason. They can continue to sift through possible free agents like Miguel Tejada or maybe in a less flashy move add some depth to the rotation and bullpen. The Cardinals still need to make a decision on a 5th starter and no team can ever get enough arms stockpiled in the bullpen. Perhaps an unsung guy to eat up innings will provide more value than a Tejada at third, where young prospect David Freese can fill in nicely as he tries to recover from some personal issues.

Meanwhile, Ludwick should have fans everywhere excited about a powerful offense to go with the workhorses in the rotation (Carpenter & Wainwright). With Ludwick, Pujols, and Holliday, the power guys can also hit for average—something not always seen from home run guys. This team is slowly completing the puzzle, leaving a more finished and polished picture than past years.

The 2010 Cards can only hope the final image ends with a ring, a trophy, and a banner—improving on the 2009 division title.