What's Ryan Worth?

About a week ago, I tried to estimate Ankiel’s value as a free agent to determine whether or not he should be traded this offseason. The idea was that, if it’s going to be cost-prohibitive to resign Ankiel, we should trade him this winter and get what we can for him rather than losing him for, at most, a first-rounder and a supplemental next June.

I’m still inclined to think that trading Ankiel is the way to go this offseason. However, there’s been a lot more discussion about trading Ludwick than Ankiel. There were the rumors about him being involved in a trade to the Rockies for Holliday and the rumors of the Braves’ interest as well. There’s also the knowledge that the Rays are looking for a power-hitting RF who bats right-handed as well as the recognition that they have young pitching to spare. In fact, Beyond the Boxscore did a thread the other day suggesting that the Rays should dangle Scott Kazmir in an attempt to bring Ludwick to the Gulf Coast.

Again, I’m not endorsing trading Ludwick; I’d rather trade Ankiel. Trading Ludwick means an OF of 3 lefties, unless Skip is platooned w/ Mather or Barton against southpaws. Ludwick is also 3 years away from free agency to Rick’s 1. And, let’s face it, Ludwick was the better player last year. However, the appeal of a much bigger bounty is reason enough to see what trading Ludwick might bring us. If the haul is big enough, shouldn’t we consider it?

First, Ludwick was about a 5 WAR player last year who earned $411,000. He’ll get a raise this year, due to it being the first year of arbitration-eligibility but he’ll still earn no more than $2-3 M. A couple of weeks ago, I estimated Ludwick’s value to be about $22 M, a profit of $21.5 M to the team. Had I used Justin’s numbers Ludwick would have been worth about $24 M bringing a $23.5 M profit to the team. Whatever the exact number, Ludwick brought the team tremendous value last year and, even if he’s not quite the player next year he was last year, he still stands to bring $15-18 M in value to a team that only has to pay him $2-3 M. A team needing an OF or a power hitter in general should be willing to pay a considerable sum for that. Add to that the fact that he will have 2 more years of team control AFTER this season, and a team stands to gain somewhere in the neighborhood of $45-50 M in value over the next 3 seasons while doling out around $20 M.

If we trade Ludwick, he absolutely must fill a need. One thing I never understood about the Rockies rumor was that he was rumored to be traded for another right-handed hitting OF. Our clearest needs are in the pen, in middle infield, and in starting pitching (not necessarily in that order). I should point out that I’m not counting on Carpenter but, even if he does provide something of value, Pineiro (mercifully) is a free agent at the end of the season and Wellemeyer is arbitration-eligible as of now. A young pitcher could help this year and for the next few.

So, who might have some interest in Ludwick?

Rays

There’s been discussion here of receiving Sonnastine and Zobrist in return. Each earned the minimum last year and would be under the team’s control for 5 years. There’s been some question of Zobrist’s defense but last year he was more than a 1 WAR player in just 227 PAs last year. It’s not unreasonable to think he could be a 2.5 -3 WAR player over the next 5 years if he played the full season. Sonnastine was nearly a 4 WAR player last year. It’s inarguable that he was better than Kazmir last year and, quite possibly, the best pitcher on a very good Rays staff. Moreover, there’s reason to believe it was no fluke. It’s not inconceivable that these 2 could combine to be 6 WAR per year over the next 5 seasons – 30 WAR. Of course, Izturis was about a 2 WAR player last year so we’re probably adding 4 WAR per year. Still, 4 per year for 5 years beats 4 WAR per year for 2 and Ludwick’s at most 2 WAR better than Rasmus or a Skip/Mather combo in the OF. This seems to be a plus trade for the Cards.

What about Kazmir? Kazmir was about a little more than a 2 WAR player last year though BTB figures him to be a 4 WAR player. Needless to say, a 4 WAR player in RF is easier to replace than a 4 WAR left-handed starter and, there’s reason to think that a change in leagues could add 1 WAR to Kazmir’s total. He had a bit of a rough season last year, despite his relatively low ERA, as tRA points out. He has control issues, to be sure, but he has fantastic stuff and only once has averaged less than 10 K/9 IP. He would be a huge boost to the rotation. Kazmir’s contract, however, isn’t as favorable as Sonnastine’s. He’s under team control for 3 more years and there’s a team option for the 4th. He’s guaranteed $28.5 M over the next 3 (still a pretty good deal) and the 2013 option is for $13.5 M. All in all, I’d rather trade Ludwick straight up for Kazmir than Rasmus + 2 prospects for Peavy and it’s not even close.

Padres

I really think it’s a non-starter – pun intended. The Padres want to receive a top-notch SP prospect in return for Peavy and we don’t have one, unless we include Wainwright. We absolutely should not go there.

Braves

The Braves do not intend to trade BOTH Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar this offseason and Escobar has been rumored to be in any trade for Peavy, a deal I still think will happen. Last year Johnson was a 2.5 WAR player. He’s not yet arbitration-eligible and will be under the team’s control for 4 more years and he’ll be 27 in February. Like Zobrist, he appears to be a downgrade defensively. Isn’t Sonnastine and Zobrist then a better package? It’s not enough.

How about Escobar? Last year, Escobar was more than a 3 WAR player at a more-premium position. He just turned 26 and is under the team’s control for 5 more years. He’s liable to be a super-2 player, however, and eligible for arbitration at the end of this season. Still, doesn’t that just mean that he’s really good? It would be a nice problem to have – an excellent young SS under the team’s control for 5 more years. Is he worth Ludwick? I’d say probably yes – certainly more than Kelly Johnson is.

Indians

Not rumored, but they seem to have a need and could probably spare Jhonny Peralta or Asdrubal Cabrera to get another big bat in the middle of their lineup. Peralta was a 2.5 WAR player last year. He’s signed for $3.4 M for ’09, $4.6 M for ’10, and there’s a $7 M team option for 2011. He turns 27 next May. Maybe he’s just coming into his own but he’s averaged just a .332 OBP over the last 3 seasons. He has averaged 19 HR over those seasons but would be moving to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark. His wOBA over the last 3 seasons has been .335, .347, and .356. Ludwick’s last year was .413. There just seem to be better, younger, options. Like Zobrist and Johnson, Peralta appears to get almost all his value at the plate as his defense seems to be below average.

Cabrera was just less than a 1.5 WAR player in 418 PAs. A plus defender, he just turned 23 last week. He’ll be under the team’s control for 5 more seasons but has yet to put together a really strong full season in the majors. I’d like to have him, considering his youth, his defense, and his ability to play 2B, but I’m not giving up Ludwick to get him.

Angels

I don’t know that they’d be interested, but I have to think that if they don’t resign Teixeira (and it won’t be easy) I have to think that they’re going to want another middle of the order hitter. First of all, they’d have to include Brandon Wood and a starter – I’m thinking Joe Saunders or Nick Adenhart. Wood is a top-notch prospect but has yet to prove anything in the bigs. The same is basically true of Adenhart. Still, it would be hard to decline that kind of package. Saunders I’m less sanguine on. His tRA last year was 4.59 – in the same neighborhood as Kazmir and I’d rather have Scott. I think Kazmir’s more likely to improve considering his high K/9. Like Kazmir, Saunders is a lefty but his K/9 last year was less than half of Kazmir’s – 4.68.

What about Aybar or Kendrick and Adenhart? Despite Wood’s relative inexperience, I think I’d rather have him. Aybar was about a 2 WAR player last year while Kendrick came in at 1.5. Aybar’s probably not going to improve too much and I think I’d rather take a chance on Wood’s upside. If he fails, we can get 1.5 - 2 WAR from Izturis’s defense.

A match anywhere else seems to be tough to discern. There are probably 5-10 (at least) other teams who would be interested in Ludwick but not many that have young middle infielders or starting pitchers to trade. I’m not trading Ludwick for a closer. We have one of those (Perez) and Ludwick’s too valuable right now.

Again, my initial preference is to trade Ankiel this year and Ludwick next year. The main negative to Ludwick is the fact that he’s already 30 and I do believe we’ll need to sell high at some point. I just happen to think we can get 1 more year of really good value from him. It’s possible, though, that his value will be less after next year considering his age but if teams are drawn to him b/c of the fact that he’s cheap and 3 years free agency, well – they can read his driver’s license and perform basic math skills. The only real risk to keeping him 1 more season is a injury-plagued season or one in which there’s a severe dropoff. All 3 projections out so far have Ludwick falling to between an .869 OPS and an .879 OPS. That puts him in Pat Burrell’s neighborhood (though better defensively, but how could he not be?). He’d be very good, but not quite the player he was this year. So, you tell me…when is the right time to sell high? I’d say that if we can get a truly great package, we should do it now. Otherwise, it should be next year’s plan.

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