Ludwick Re-Signs with Reds

The Reds came into the offseason with a to-do list as they prepare to defend their NL Central crown in 2013. In their first move they retained Jonathan Broxton to move into a closer role and free Aroldis Chapman to move into the rotation. Stories Saturday confirmed that Ryan Ludwick will return to left field after heavy rumors that both sides were close to a two-year deal.

The Reds made another move, or perhaps more accurately prevented another player move, yesterday by re-signing Ryan Ludwick. Their first announcement of the offseason was keeping Jonathan Broxton in their bullpen and now Ludwick will return to left field with a 2 year/$15M deal. This comes as no surprise and rumors had been flying that the two sides were close. Now the only thing remaining is a pending physical.

Cincinnati got a bargain when they picked up the 34 year old outfielder for $2 million in the free agent market last year. He overcame a slow start to hit .275/.346 OB/.531 SLG/26 HR/80 RBI in 2012. He also emerged as one of the leading hitters for a resurgent offense that improved over the second half of the season and was a key contributor when his team expanded their division lead during the absence of Joey Votto. His bat did not stop when post season arrived and went 6-18 with four walks and three homers in the playoffs.

Ludwick's best season was with the Cardinals in 2008 when he clubbed 37 HR while driving in 113 and batting .299. Since then his productivity had declined year over year and he appeared to be going down a road out of baseball when he was shuffled from St. Louis to San Diego to Pittsburgh over two seasons before he bounced back this year. The level of success he enjoyed in 2012 made it no surprise when he declined a player option for a second year of his previous contract and now he's got a raise and guaranteed pay through 2014.

The deal frees Brandon Phillips to return to leadoff, a spot with no shortage of attention for its lack of production in 2012. The Reds have made no secrets that they've been searching to upgrade that situation and could still use another top-lineup hitter that would allow them to hit Phillips second. With the return of Ludwick and Todd Frazier taking over full time at third base the only spot where they can fit in a new player would be center field and that market has contracted significantly with other free agent signings and trades recently. The top candidate remaining is Michael Bourne and it is pretty safe to say that he's out of their price range. There has been some chatter about a trade to bring Dexter Fowler over from Colorado, but thus far those rumors have been mild at best.

The main man in future leadoff plans for the Reds is Billy Hamilton who was moved to center field before performing in the Arizona Fall League, but he's still at least a year away from MLB-ready. Hamilton provided no shortage of excitement this past season when he broke the minor league stolen base record with 155 thefts while splitting time between high-A Bakersfield and AA Pensacola. Obviously he wouldn't have had that many opportunities if he didn't know the way to first base and where he reached safely over 40% of the time. Reds fans can expect to see the 21 year-old speedster honing his routes to fly balls in a Louisville uniform to start next season.

Even without a new leadoff hitter, they can still check off two items on their to-do list for the offseason. Broxton frees Aroldis Chapman to take his triple digit fastball to the starting rotation and Ludwick provides a right-handed bat to hit between Votto and Jay Bruce. For now the leadoff prospects/suspects remain the same as they were at the end of the season. However there's still a lot of time remaining before opening day.

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