Most of the "experts" who get paid to do what I'm doing for fun have widely panned the Ryan Ludwick for Jake Westbrook trade. Some of the reasons include: 1) Cardinals need hitting more than pitching; 2) Ludwick has more value to the team than Westbrook's pitching skills; 3) Mozeliak overpaid for Westbrook; 4) the trade could mess up team chemistry. Let me address these individually before I give the true answer, the real reason why Mozeliak made this trade.
Myth: Cardinals need hitting more than pitching.
Fact: Pitching wins championships.
Does anyone really believe that the Cardinals can stay ahead or pull away from the Reds if they only win 60% of their remaining games at most? Because what we faced before the trade was Blake Hawksworth and Jeff Suppan pitching every 4th and 5th game. That puts added pressure on the big three in the rotation, Carpenter, Wainwright and Garcia, to win every game. With Westbrook in the rotation and a healthy Kyle Lohse returning soon, the chances of extending winning streaks past 5-6 games increases greatly. In addition, now you put Suppan and Hawksworth into the bullpen, which reduces the load on Boggs, Motte and McClellan. In other words, LaRussa and Duncan have about a dozen more options for their pitching staff each game. Most of all, they can reduce the pressure on the Big Three and get them fine-tuned for the playoffs—if we make it there.
Myth: Ludwick was a integral part of the team.
Fact: Ludwick's age and injury made him tradeable.
No one denies that Ryan Ludwick is a quality ballplayer and a great asset to the ballclub. Unfortunately for him, he got hurt this year and spent a significant amount of time on the disabled list. During that time, the Cardinals went on an eight-game winning streak and retook first place from the Reds. The Cardinals needed a No. 4 starter a lot more than they needed to plug Ludwick back into an already crowded outfield rotation. And at age 32, there's no guarantee that Ludwick could put up All-Star numbers again. Much of the angst over the trade has to do with how much fans and media really liked Luddy. Hey, I did too, but I'd much rather be watching Cardinal baseball deep into October.
Myth: The Cardinals overpaid for Westbrook.
Fact: This trade was our only real option for starting pitching.
Whiners complained that Houston and Arizona just "gave away" Roy Oswalt and Dan Haren for marginable prospects. Reality check: Oswalt and Haren are both carrying big contracts that would have put more strain on the Cardinals payroll even this year, so they didn't make the same kind of financial sense that the Westbrook deal did. Plus, Houston had no intention of trading Oswalt within the division, and especially not to the Cardinals, unless we gave them Shelby Miller. Not. Gonna. Happen. On the down side, since we did wait until the trading deadline, we pretty much had to make the deal we could. Every other team knew we wanted a pitcher, so Mozeliak was smart to resist the urge to trade away a top prospect.
Myth: This deal could wreck team chemistry.
Fact: Cardinals management is building through the farm system.
The reason Walt Jocketty is in Cincinnati is because Cardinals ownership decided to side with Jeff Luhnow and build through the farm system instead of trading pieces for veterans each season. With the emergence of Jon Jay, Allen Craig, David Freese and Tyler Greene, it is clear that the youth movement is a permanent fixture for the time being. With all these young players contributing, it made Ludwick expendable.
AND NOW, THE REAL REASON LUDWICK WAS TRADED...
Simply put, the Cardinals have to figure out how to pay Albert between $27-$30 million a year. He makes $15 million now. Ludwick would have cost $7-$8 million next year. Do the math. It also explains why we took Westbrook, who's only costing us a few million for the rest of the year, instead of Oswalt, Haren, or another more expensive pitcher. It also justifies going with the kids from Memphis in three or four lineup spots instead of more expensive veterans. Owner Bill DeWitt is not going to expand the payroll to cover Pujols' pay raise, and Pujols won't settle for anything other than becoming the highest-paid player in baseball. Ludwick's salary makes the math a lot easier. As fond as we were of Ludwick, does anyone in Cardinal nation really want to see Albert in Bronx pinstripes in 2012? That really would be the end of the world.