Even though the news of Ryan Ludwick not exercising his mutual club option was already a known, the official news of it as well as Ryan Madson not choosing to exercise his option became news as well. Neither is a particularly surprising development given that both were for only one year, and there is reason to believe both would want multiple years for some stability. Ludwick clearly played his way into earning that conversation; Madson, not so much.
Multiple players on this past season’s 40-man roster are currently free agents: Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Madson, Jonathan Broxton, and Dioner Navarro. We already know how Ludwick has made his case, stabilizing the middle part of the order. Madson didn’t pitch a single regular season game (getting hurt early in Spring Training and becoming inconsequential). Broxton wasn’t flawless down the stretch; however, he was there as coverage for Chapman when he was needed. Navarro was a pleasant surprise, but it seems hard to believe the transition to Devin Mesoraco wouldn’t get there after another season. It would be hard to miss something we never had (Madson), but I can also see an argument to be made that coming back here is truthfully in both his and the club’s interest to re-prove himself. Whether Aroldis Chapman stays a closer or not could very well be impacted by the presence of someone else to take the title. The pundits seem to say Chapman fits that role best, but he was signed as a starter and still gets “starter money” where he would contribute arguably far more value. I’m still a believer that becoming a starter is the best use for him. Another candidate from within (such as JJ Hoover) can step up to that role; this I have no doubt. It will be interesting to see how it resolves.
The positive is that the starting rotation starters are all under contract through at least 2013, a stability positive that cannot be overlooked. Most of the starting lineup is pretty locked, too, but, as has been stated many times previously (myself included), it’s not without flaws. The leadoff spot still needs work. There isn’t a great candidate from within until someone like Billy Hamilton becomes a real thing OR the “Drew Stubbs project” either is put to rest or turns a major corner. Drew Stubbs is supposed to be doing some big-time work in the off-season. How that progresses could be of major significance because the guy with so much upside potential has yet to find it. His speed is without question (if he ever gets on base to actually use it), and his defense was often valuable, making the hard plays look easy. I haven’t lost complete faith in him yet, but, boy, he was incredibly hard to watch at the plate down the stretch.
It will be hard to see Walt Jocketty make any major moves to make a splash. As has often been his course of action, playing things close to the vest will be the norm, and his biggest impact will be solidifying an offense that many times looked aimless. Speculation will abound exactly where that table-setter may yet be found.
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