We have our first trade deadline three-way deal. The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Jake Westbrook and sent starting outfielder Ryan Ludwick to the San Diego Padres. The Padres sent pitching prospect Nick Greenwood to St. Louis and pitching prospect Corey Kluber to Cleveland.
Who wins this complicated swap? Find out after the jump.
Westbrook, a sinkerballer, is exactly the sort of pitcher Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan loves–a guy who gets a ton of groundballs and plays to the defense’s strengths.
That said, he’s got a 4.65 ERA this year, and is nowhere near justifying his $11 million salary. His contract expires after the season, so the Cardinals are stuck with overpaying him (provided Duncan doesn’t make the guy a 3.5 ERA pitcher the rest of the way, and who knows on that front?) and then watching him walk after two months.
For all his groundbally goodness (53.3% grounder rate), Westbrook’s allowed 15 homers this year, which is somewhat below where you’d like him to be, particularly with his characteristically mediocre 73/44 K/BB. His sinker has taken a huge step backward this year, as he’s struggled to locate the pitch after missing all of 2009 with arm problems. The bright side of those struggles is that they’ve forced him to throw his slider and changeup more, and they’ve evolved into solid secondary pitches.
Barring one of those patented Dave Duncan turnarounds, Westbrook is just a nice fourth starter who is making nearly double what he’s worth.
Ludwick is a much more valuable player than Westbrook; he’s got 2.6 WAR already. He’s a huge bargain at $5.45 million this year, and has a year of arbitration left that will likely also be a bargain, seeing as he’s been worth $43 million over the last 2 1/2 seasons.
A plus outfield defender who hits .281/.343/.484? The Padres could sure use that. The Cardinals, however, have a ready replacement in Jon Jay, who’s hit a whopping .396 this year. A Jay/Matt Holliday/Colby Rasmus outfield is still very good on both sides of the ball.
Nick Greenwood, who goes to St. Louis from the Padres’ Low-A team, is no sort of prospect; I’m not sure I’ve even covered him over at Chicken Friars, and I’ve discussed almost every minor leaguer in the Padres’ system over there.
He’s a 22-year-old with a 4.15 ERA in Low-A. Greenwood doesn’t walk many (19 in 95 1/3 innings), but his 65 strikeouts aren’t good either, and the K/BB will only worsen as he moves up and batters are less and less fazed by his three-pitch arsenal, which includes a mid-to-upper-80’s fastball, a curve, and a changeup. I’d be very surprised if he ever pitches in the majors, although to his credit, he does get grounders, and anyone who keeps the ball down could always catch Duncan’s eye.
The bigger prospect prize, by far, is Kluber, who I’ve been saying should be promoted to Triple-A for weeks now.
The Double-A righty, 24, has 136 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings with just 40 walks and seven homers allowed.
Kluber has three good pitches in an 88-94 mph fastball, a hard, tilting slider, and a changeup with excellent sink.
The righthander could be a #3 starter in the Ryan Dempster mold if everything breaks right. He could also be an intriguing setup type if starting doesn’t work out.
Kluber’s likely, in any case, to provide far more value than two months of an overpaid Westbrook, especially to the rebuilding Indians. He deserves to be in Triple-A right now, and if moved there, he could challenge for a big league rotation spot next year.
So, we can box that part of the deal off and say the Indians won it.
The rest of the trade is a little dicier. With Greenwood unlikely to make a big-league impact and Westbrook, particularly at his salary, much less valuable than Ludwick, the Cardinals clearly received less than they gave up in this trade. Now, with Jay around, though, they may have actually improved the team.
So, then, the operative question is: Could the Cardinals have used Ludwick in a different deal to improve the team more?
I certainly don’t know the answer to that question–it all depends on the offers they received for Ludwick. I have to wonder, though, if the Cubs (with Ted Lilly) could’ve been brought into this, with Lilly filling the Westbrook role and going to St. Louis, pushing Ludwick to San Diego, and getting Kluber in return. That would seem fairer to me, but maybe that’s just me. Besides, when have the Cubs and Cardinals cooperated on anything?
What you think of the Padres’ end of this deal depends on what sort of shape you think the rotation will be in going forward. Jon Garland‘s contract is up after the season, and Kevin Correia and Wade LeBlanc have both been rather poor this year. That leaves next year’s rotation as Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, and who? I guess LeBlanc could be a serviceable #5, especially in his second full year, and Cory Luebke might be ready to take a slot, but the Padres’ AAA staff aside from Luebke is terrible. Kluber could have possibly hit the bigs in early 2011, but he’s gone now, and the team doesn’t want to rush Simon Castro up, so it’s certainly tricky.
Ludwick is, no doubt, an upgrade. We’ll see who exactly he replaces, but Will Venable, Tony Gwynn, and even Chris Denorfia can’t match up with him offensively. Neither can veterans Scott Hairston, Oscar Salazar, or Matt Stairs. The smartest choice for the Padres is probably to release Stairs and decrease Hairston and Venable’s playing time, going with Denorfia in left, Gwynn in center, and Ludwick in right. Hairston could come in for Gwynn against tough lefties and Venable could come in for Denorfia against tough righties.
It’s a big upgrade–Ludwick’s 2.6 WAR are more than Venable and Hairston’s combined 2.3–and getting him at a likely reasonable price in 2011 is a big bonus. Ludwick also figures to carry significant trade value a year from now if the Padres fall out of contention in 2011. For now, he’ll provide protection for Adrian Gonzalez and give the Padres a potent righthanded bat.
Kluber is, though, quite a bit to give up. There are enough concerns with him–he’s 24 already, struggled in Double-A last year, and doesn’t have very smooth mechanics–that he’s no sure bet to reach that Dempster-esque ceiling, but aside from Luebke and Castro, and perhaps Will Inman, the Padres are devoid of talented upper-minors starters; their studs are all down in A-ball or lower, so it’s a definite loss. I suppose you have to give something up to get something, though.
The Indians come out strong in this deal. Kluber could put together six years of pitching that’s all better than what Westbrook may do in the next two months, and he’ll be much cheaper doing it.
Then there are the Cardinals and Padres, who are sort of on opposite ends of the spectrum here. The Cardinals likely gave up more than they received, value-wise, but they had the proper in-house replacement to still improve their team. The Padres, on the other hand, likely picked up more than they gave away, but losing Kluber exacerbates a rather glaring hole in the system, so it’s somewhat tough to swallow.
If Jay keeps hitting for St. Louis, and Westbrook and Ludwick continue to perform at their usual levels for their new teams, St. Louis and San Diego really shouldn’t have any complaints, but both teams did pay significant prices for their acquisitions.