About a month ago, Padres GM Jed Hoyer appeared on XX-1090 Sports Radio with Darren Smith, and one of the topics was outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick is eligible for arbitration for the last time this winter, and he'll get a raise on this year's $5.45MM salary. Though Ludwick struggled mightily after coming to the Padres in a deadline deal, Hoyer's comments on the radio show strongly implied the outfielder will be tendered a contract:
I think he came over here and probably put too much pressure on himself to try to protect Adrian and hit home runs and he struggled, but a lot of people can struggle over a two-month period and we still love the power, the corner outfield power and I think one thing that we'll probably talk about at some point is moving him to left here. I think Will [Venable] is a great right fielder defensively and that might be a better fit, but otherwise we’re excited to have him back and he's a guy that we think will have a lot of home runs for us. I think he'll fit in better for us over the course of a full season than he did and I think he'll put less pressure on himself.
Those comments indicate Hoyer has Ludwick in his plans for 2011, but should he? Ludwick is likely to be paid $6.5-7MM next year. Coming off a .251/.325/.418 season, he might make half that as a free agent if he's non-tendered. It may be difficult to convince a slugger to sign in San Diego, but not to the point where they must be paid double.
In Ludwick's defense, he did slug .484 with the Cardinals this year. Only a dozen free agents had a higher slugging percentage in 2010. Ludwick also has a ridiculous 2008 season on his resume - a 37 home run campaign. If the Padres let him go, what's the backup plan in left field? Free agents like Pat Burrell and Brad Hawpe aren't much better, while Adam Dunn and even Magglio Ordonez may be expensive. Trade options could include Josh Willingham, Luke Scott, Carlos Quentin, and Kosuke Fukudome.