The Cincinnati Reds exited the All-Star break this past July facing the specter of six-to-eight weeks without former MVP Joey Votto and with Pittsburgh and St. Louis hot on their tails. It looked as if the Reds would struggle to tread water until their superstr returned. Instead, the Reds put distance between themselves and their division rivals and did so in large part thanks to the plate prowess of outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
Ludwick landed in Cincinnati on a one-year deal worth only $2.5 million that included a mutual option for double that price in 2013. Ludwick struggled mightily after being traded by the Cardinals to the Padres in 2010 and things didn’t get better in 2011. At age 34, it looked like the late-bloomer might be nearing the end of his career. Moving into a more friendly park for hitters worked wonders for Ludwick, however, and he turned in his second-best season of his career in terms of homers and OPS.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting today that Ludwick will decline his half of the $5 million option and elect free agency. The Reds, for their part, want to hold on to their left fielder and are willing to work out a new deal; one that will compensate Ludwick a bit more fairly for his big season. For Ludwick, it won’t simply be about adding a couple million dollars, but also adding a year or two of security. Entering his age-34 season, Ludwick probably only has time for one long-term contract left in his career. Apart from his season in hitter’s Hell (Petco Park), Ludwick has consistently posted .850 OPS-type seasons.
The Reds have extended the contract of manager Dusty Baker already this off-season and have long-term deals already in place with Votto, Brandon Phillips, and Jay Bruce. It only makes sense to sew up Ludwick for a couple of years as well. If they cannot come to an agreement, there will be no shortage of suitors for a slugging right handed outfield bat on the open market.