(By Alex Novick)
In a notable three-team swap Saturday, the Cardinals acquired starter Jake Westbrook from the Indians, sending outfielder Ryan Ludwick to the Padres while the Tribe received Double-A starter Corey Kluber from San Diego.
Westbrook is a huge winner here, and should now be scooped up immediately in NL-only formats, while kept a close eye on in mixed leagues. The 32-year-old right-hander always had solid stuff, but labored to an up-and-down career in Cleveland which included three 14-win seasons despite a mediocre career 4.34 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.
He got handed a winning lottery ticket on Saturday, however, not only getting a boost from going to a contending team in the National League, but landing in the hands of the magic wizard also know as Dave Duncan. Westbrook will try to follow in the footsteps of fellow right-handers like Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan, Kyle Lohse, Joel Pineiro, and Brad Penny (pre-injury), who rejuvenated their careers under the tutelage of Duncan. Expect Westbrook’s current 4.65 ERA to drop at least a full run for the rest of the season, while he racks up 5-6 victories.
Ludwick, currently with a .281-11-43 line, suffers the opposite fate as Westbrook with his relocation, although things aren’t all that bad. At first glance this seems devastating for the 31-year-old slugger’s fantasy value, going from hitting next to Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, to likely batting cleanup with no protection from the weak Friars lineup, where home runs go to die in Petco Park.
On the bright side, however, Ludwick will be guaranteed regular playing time in San Diego. He was starting to become the victim of a bit of a Wally Pip situation, as Jon Jay raked his way into regular playing time while Ludwick was on the disabled list for most of July. Ludwick had started only one of the last three games, and things weren’t likely to improve much for him in St. Louis. So basically, Ludwick was saved from falling into fantasy irrelevance, and now becomes an average-at-best mixed-league outfielder.
The other large beneficiary here is the aforementioned Jay, who no longer has to look over his shoulder and will remain a fixture in right field for the Cards. The 25-year-old has posted an absurd .396 average in 111 at-bats this year, with an even more eye-popping .456 clip in July. This is a pretty huge surprise — despite the fact he hit .321 in 165 Triple-A at-bats — as Jay wasn’t a very heralded prospect working his way up from the Minors.
Nonetheless, the sweet-swinging lefty has looked great so far, and should be owned in pretty much all formats going forward. He’s not going to give you a ton of power, but should cross the plate a ton batting second in front of the Cardinals bashers, so a .320-5-25 line with 30-plus runs scored doesn’t seem out of the question over the next couple months.
- The 24-year-old Kluber is a mid-level prospect at this point, and is at least a year away from making an impact in Cleveland. The right-hander has racked up a great strikeout rate at Double-A (136 Ks in 122 2/3 innings) but his 6-6 record, 3.46 ERA and 1.31 WHIP screams No. 3 starter at best.