Neither Stud nor Dud: Ryan Ludwick signing + transactions to date

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

Ryan Ludwick: 2 years/$15M (w/ mutual option in '15)

We don't know the year-by-year breakdown yet for this deal, but it's probably slightly back-loaded. I would guess no more so than $6M in '13 and $9M in '14. This is a totally reasonable deal on the surface, especially weighed against the crazy money that's flying around the free agent market.

Ludwick has been a 2-3 win player in three of his last four seasons. If you weight his strong 2012 campaign more heavily - in which he was easily the Reds' most valuable LF of the post-Dunn era - he's theoretically worth up to $12M/yr on the free agent market, according to the going rate for wins-above-replacement.

Of course, players are paid for expected production. Part of the reason other teams may not have wanted to kick in more than $15M for Ludwick is the perception that he benefited from Great American Ballpark. If you're the Reds, that means a discount.

Part of it was also that Ludwick was pretty bad in 2011 and will be turning 35 midway through the first year of this contract. If he loses a win as soon as next year - hitting like he did in 2009, while playing passable defense - he might still be worth his contract.

But the Reds might also have wished they'd spent the money differently. They will have gotten a downgrade and passed up the opportunity to acquire someone else. If the prospect cost of trading for an outfielder like Choo is just too high, then the Reds have done about as well as they can do. It's basically Ludwick or Cody Ross.

I'm optimistic that Ludwick has at least one more 2012-esque season in him. Nothing about his peripherals screams fluke. His BABIP was right in line with league, team and his career averages. He hit for more power at home, but not so much that his season looks like a GABP facade ready to crumble. His away slash line was a healthy .282/.351/.505.

Ludwick is 35 in July and has been an uneven, unpredictable player throughout his career. That makes it hard to be more than cautiously optimistic about this deal. In the wake of some baffling offseason moves by other clubs, maybe cautiously optimistic is the new really optimistic.

Since the end of the 2012 season, the Reds have also signed:

Kris Negron - minor league deal, invite to ST

Denis Phipps - minor league deal, invite to ST

Jonathan Broxton - 3 years, $21M

Lee Hyde, LHP - Minor league deal

Jose Diaz, RHP - Minor league deal

Wilkin De La Rosa, LHP - Minor league deal

Jeff Stevens, RHP - Minor league deal, unnecessary victory lap

Nevin Ashley, C - Minor league deal

Emmanuel Burriss, infielder - Minor league deal

Mike Hessman, 1B/3B - Minor league deal

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