Is Ryan Ludwick Poised to Make a Cleveland Comeback?

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Ryan Ludwick Offers Value to the 2015 Cleveland Indians

As the Indians build their roster for the 2015 season, Wahoo’s on First will be breaking down players that the Indians could target into one of three categories – Ugly, Ruggedly Handsome, and Sexy.

An Ugly player (easy to spot warts) is a player that will be signed to a minor league contract that is coming off poor performance or has battled injury.

The contract will more than likely be a minor league deal with an invite to spring training but could also include a major league salary if the player makes opening day roster.

The Ruggedly Handsome (multiple teams will be targeting) player is defined as a player that doesn’t have a qualifying offer attached to them, is more than likely going to sign a 1-2 year deal ranging anywhere from $7MM for a 1-year deal to over $20MM for a two year deal.

 The Sexy player (top-tier free agent) is a free agent that will command a multi-year deal and may cost a draft pick. These players are considered franchise changers or the last piece of the puzzle depending on your view of where the Indians stand heading into the winter.

Free Agent List: Ugly

Ryan Ludwick may follow in the footsteps of LeBron James and Brian Hoyer, and make a return to Cleveland this offseason. Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer suggests a Ludwick return could be in the cards, and that could be a good thing for Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians. 

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Ludwick has a career .260/.330/.451 slashline. He has put together seven different 10-homer seasons and four 20-homer seasons under his belt, including 2008, when he mashed 37 dingers for the St. Louis Cardinals. Could Ludwick be the versatile power hitter the Indians seek?

At 36 years of age, Ludwick’s best baseball is likely behind him. The Cincinnati Reds acknowledged that by declining his $9-million option and paying a $4.5-million buyout to do so. Ludwick even realizes it, admitting that he will likely have to accept “a lesser role” in 2015.

However, given Ludwick’s .244/.308/.375 slash line and nine homers in 112 games in 2014, he is the type of ugly free agent pickup the Indians are likely seeking to help bolster the lineup heading into 2015. With Nick Swisher and Ryan Raburn coming off down years featuring season-ending knee injuries, the Indians may need to look for a right-handed bat with some pop to platoon with David Murphy in right field.

Given Ludwick’s career ISO of .191 and 2015 Steamer projection for 10 homers over 89 games, Ludwick could easily play a role similar to that of Ryan Raburn in 2013, switching out with Murphy and filling in at DH when needed.

Ludwick is durable, familiar with the city of Cleveland, and looking to play a small role on a team with playoff aspirations. The Indians fit the bill, and with uncertainty clouding right field, Ludwick provides solid depth, power, and veteran leadership. He has been on an All-Star team, even winning a Silver Slugger in 2008.

With Jason Giambi on the way out, Francona will need another veteran power bat to use in pinch-hit situations late in games. He also needs another viable outfielder. Ludwick fills both needs seamlessly, making a return to Cleveland seem likely.

Statistics via Fangraphs

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