Ryan Ludwick is really happy to be a member of the Cincinnati Reds.
One reason for his happiness is that he comes from Georgetown, Ohio and grew up rooting for the Reds and Bengals. Another reason for his joy is because of where he isn’t: That hitter’s nightmare known as Petco Park.
Ludwick spoke with John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Playing in San Diego screwed me up. I’m not using that as an excuse or a crutch, but it turned me into a dead pull hitter. I got away from what I was as a hitter.”
The numbers seem to back him up. Ludwick has a line of .218/.298/.361 in 91 games at Petco, substantially lower than his .261/.332/.455 career line. It remains to be seen if Ludwick will improve enough to earn substantial playing time in a crowded outfield, but he sounded confident, telling Fay, “I think it’s kind of up to me. If I play well, I’ll play a lot. If I don’t, I won’t.”
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Once the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox with one season remaining on his contract the assumption has been that fellow impending free agent Heath Bell isn’t long for San Diego either, but yesterday the closer told Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune that signing a long-term extension “would be my dream.”
Whether or not the Padres have room in their budget for a $10 million-per-season closer or are even interested in making a multi-year commitment to a 33-year-old reliever is unclear, but Bell left no doubt that he wants to remain in San Diego:
This next contract is going to be very important to my family. I’m not 27 or 28 when I become eligible for free agency like Adrian. I have to think about this contract. But I also want to stay in San Diego. My family loves it here. I love it here. I’d love to get something done with the Padres that benefits everyone. Right now, I honestly don’t know what I am asking or what the Padres are offering. I don’t know the numbers, but I know I want to stay with the Padres.
Bell is set to make around $7 million this season via the arbitration process, and Center speculates that an extension “would easily top $20 million” for three years. General manager Jed Hoyer indicated that he’s had some discussions with Bell’s agent, but the talks don’t sound very far along.
Since joining the Padres in 2007 Bell has a 2.54 ERA and 338 strikeouts in 311 innings, including 89 saves in two seasons since replacing Trevor Hoffman as closer. If the Padres fall out of contention, expect Bell to be among the most sought after players at the trading deadline.
With the Nationals and Orioles seemingly fighting over Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee at first base the Padres have turned their attention to Brad Hawpe, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com.
After hitting at least .285 with 20-plus homers and an OPS above .875 in four straight seasons Hawpe struggled last year, getting released by the Rockies in late August and hitting .179 down the stretch after being picked up by the Rays.
His overall line of .245/.338/.419 wasn’t pretty and Hawpe is a terrible outfielder defensively, but he’s still just 31 years old with an .862 career OPS and would be far less of a liability on defense at first base. And while Coors Field obviously helped Hawpe’s raw numbers with the Rockies his home/road splits were never as extreme as most Colorado hitters.
Going from Coors Field to Petco Park would still be a huge adjustment for Hawpe, but he’s hit .273 with a .369 on-base percentage and .470 slugging percentage on the road during his career.
Designated for assignment by the Mariners last week, Rob Johnson has been traded to the Padres for a player to be named later or cash. Presumably something like $1.75.
Johnson hit .200 with a .282 on-base percentage and .302 slugging percentage in 534 plate appearances for the Mariners, which adds up to a .584 OPS that ranks third-worst in team history behind Brian Hunter and the legendary Mario Mendoza.
And while most catchers who hit that horribly are great defenders behind the plate, Johnson has more passed balls than anyone in baseball over the past two seasons despite playing about half as much as the average starting catcher.
He figures to serve as Nick Hundley’s backup in San Diego.
Baltimore is “closing in on signing” first baseman Adam LaRoche, according to Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse.
Craig wrote this morning that the Orioles, Nationals, and Padres are seemingly fighting it out for LaRoche and Derrek Lee, so perhaps Lee could generate a nice little bidding war now.
Arizona declined its $7.5 million option on LaRoche for 2011, choosing a $1.5 million buyout instead, and then LaRoche turned down the Diamondbacks’ arbitration offer, so they’ll receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds for letting him walk.
LaRoche drove in a career-high 100 runs this year, but also had his lowest batting average (.261), on-base percentage (.320), and OPS (.788) since 2005. He’s typically been a slightly above-average first baseman offensively and adds some extra value with a good glove.
If the Orioles end up signing LaRoche he’ll join trade acquisitions Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy as part of a new-look infield that includes just one holdover in second baseman Brian Roberts.