"Go west young man."
That is what Cardinals slugger Ryan Ludwick must have been mulling over.
Having to decide to fly east to Florida to discuss terms with Redbirds brass or fly west to Arizona to his scheduled arbitration hearing on Tuesday—it was a tough decision.
Ludwick's decision to go to Florida turned out to be the right one, as St. Louis and the 2008 All-Star agreed to a one-year, $3.7 million deal for 2009.
His decision to avoid arbitration probably weighed heavily upon the outcome of negotiations of fellow teammate Rick Ankiel, who signed a one-year, $2.8 million deal just recently.
Now with the Redbirds' outfield intact, everyone can now concentrate on baseball, which is precisely what General Manager John Mozeliak wants to do.
"We are extremely happy to have this deal completed," Mozeliak said in a statement issued by the team. "Everyone is ready to focus their attention on getting ready for the upcoming season. I know 'Luddy' is glad to get this behind him and is looking forward to the 2009 season."
The deal actually favored Ludwick. Arbitration settlements usually end in the midpoint between the sides, but his salary will be $175,000 more than the middle ground of $3.525 million.
In terms of how this helps Cardinals Nation, it's huge, and is perhaps the best news of the offseason as now no players remain unsigned.
Locking up the All-Star slugger now means that reigning NL MVP Albert Pujols won't have to worry about Ludwick's mindset and attitude heading into the season. He'll be there in time for Spring training, and will come ready to play ball.
The offense is there for the Cardinals. Now, the questions once again turn to the rotation as Chris Carpenter attempts to return to his 2005 pitching form.
Can Kyle Lohse produce career numbers as he did in 2008? Will he hold that form into the second half of the season?
Can Adam Wainwright stay healthy as well, and produce pitching ace-like numbers?
Mozeliak's seemingly "laissez faire" attitude towards this offseason may have paid off with Ludwick, however, as more storm clouds approach with the closer's role yet to be solidified, rough waters are still in the forecast for St. Louis.
Questions need answering, but the Cardinals at least answered one with the signing of Ludwick.
Quotes and information attributed to MLB.com