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Reds in Left Field: Ryan Ludwick vs. Marlon Byrd

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It only took nearly the entirety of the off-season, but the Cincinnati Reds have finally settled on what they’re going to do about left field.

Just days ago, it was reported that the Reds were in the mix to snatch up power-hitting corner outfielder Dayan Viciedo, who clubbed a career-high 25 home runs back in 2012. The Chicago White Sox released him just two weeks ago, leaving him strapped for time to catch on with a club prior to the start of the 2015 season.

General Manager Walt Jocketty claimed that the Reds could not offer Viciedo the playing time he sought, which can only mean the club is entirely invested in newly acquired left fielder Marlon Byrd.

If you’ve just awaken from a four-month slumber, here’s a recap of what has happened to the most controversial position on the Reds roster ever since Adam Dunn was traded away just after the 2008 Trade Deadline.

-Declined Ryan Ludwick’s $9 million option, in turn buying out his contract for 2015 for $4.5 million

-Traded Chris Heisey to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for pitching depth

-Acquired Marlon Byrd from the Philadelphia Phillies, getting them to pay half ($4 million) of his 2015 salary

Skip Schumaker switched his number from 25 to 55 (not sure what that’ll have to do with his performance, but hey, it’s something)

Ultimately, the decision came down to Ryan Ludwick vs. Marlon Byrd. The Reds had two choices to pick from:

Option 1: Re-sign Ludwick at a $9 million clip and let him roll as the everyday left fielder. Schumaker and Negron would be available to spell him.

Option 2: Give Ludwick his walking papers for $4.5 million and acquire Byrd, which cost $4 million. They will still have Schumaker and Negron available to spell him. (It’s important to remember that the club does not want Byrd going anywhere near 550 plate appearances so that his 2016 option worth $8.5 million will kick in and essential wreck whatever is left of the payroll.)

By choosing option two, the club now acquired a new left fielder who is not only a fresh face, but will more than likely produce superior numbers to what Ludwick would have provided. Not to mention, they saved $500,000–for an organization that is strapped heavily for cash, every half a million dollars counts.

The answer seems fairly obvious, but who would have been the better option?

Over his three years in Cincinnati, Ludwick produced a WAR of 0.8. Combined. Last year alone, when he raked in $8.5 million, he posted a WAR of -0.5. In comparison, Byrd got paid $8 million last season to play for a downtrodden Phillies bunch, but still pounded out a 2.6 WAR, which admittedly isn’t ideal for a player receiving that dollar figure, but is a massive improvement from Ludwick.

Were this same question posed heading into 2013 for example, Ludwick may have been the better option due to Byrd’s down 2012 year and Ludwick’s explosion having transitioned back to a hitter’s park. But after Byrd’s rejuvenation in 2013 initially with the New York Mets, and then Pittsburgh Pirates, he appears to be the better option in every sense of the word.

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