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Evaluating a Trade

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Perhaps it's useful for me to divulge my thinking when a evaluating a proposed trade. I'm going to use the Langerhans-Riske rumor as an example, but you can use this format for other trades as well.

(1) Can the Indians adequately replace David Riske?

In other words, what's the difference between Riske and his replacement in the bullpen? If the season started tomorrow, here's what the bullpen would look like:

CL Wickman
RHP Cabrera
LHP Rhodes
RHP Betancourt
LHP Sauerbeck
RHP Miller
RHP Riske

Some of these are judgment calls, but I believe that if Riske's still on this team next season, he'll be way down on the totem pole as far as relievers are concerned. As it stands now, there is no real long man, so if Riske were to be dealt, his spot could be taken a guy like Jason Davis or Brian Tallet. In other words, assuming no injuries, the Indians could adequately replace Riske given his projected role.

(2) Does Ryan Langerhans fill a need?

Yes. The Indians need another outfielder, particularly one who can play right field. Langerhans can play all three outfield positions.   As of today, Casey Blake and Jason Dubois are the only major-league ready players on the 40-man roster that can play right field. I feel that Casey Blake would be better used as a utility player, and Dubois would be better as a first baseman; his outfield defense leaves much to be desired.

(3) Right now, who is the more valuable player?

Langerhans posted a 3.1 WARP in 2005 as a part-time outfielder. Riske posted a 2.5 WARP in 2005 as a reliever. If we assume that Riske becomes a more integral part of the Atlanta bullpen and Langerhans gets more playing time with the Indians, I think it's a push.

(4) Who is likely to be the better player in the future?

Riske will be 29 next season, not old by any stretch of the imagination. But from the Indians' standpoint, his future is the 2006 season; after that, he's a free agent.

But just for fun, let's assume that the Indians could retain Riske for an indefinite period of time. Here's Riske's 10 most similar pitchers through age 28:

  1. Felix Rodriguez
  2. Xavier Hernandez
  3. Antonio Osuna
  4. Ed Sprague (the pitcher)
  5. Scott Sullivan
  6. Bill Simas
  7. Tim Scott
  8. Dave Heaverlo
  9. Cris Carpenter (the reliever)
  10. Francisco Cordero
Most on this list are/were successful middle relievers. No one on this list pitched past the age of 33, although a couple contemporary pitchers are well on their way to pitching well into their 30s (Rodriguez, Cordero). I'll hedge my bets and say that Riske has 2-3 good seasons left in him.

As for Langerhans, the concensus seems to be that he's destined to become a fourth outfielder. His defense should keep him around a while even if he doesn't hit for that much power. If he can slug .450 or so, he'll have a regular major-league job because of his other skills.

(5) What are the service time and salary statuses of the players?

David Riske is eligible for arbitration with 5+ years of service time. He made $1.42M in 2005, and should get a small raise in 2006. He'll be a free agent after the season.

Ryan Langerhans has just over one year of service time. He shouldn't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2007 season. He'll make close to the minimum in 2006.

(6) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the players in the trade?

Riske lives off his fastball (~90 mph), but has added a splitter to his arsenal. He has no discernable platoon split, although he's a bit better against left-handers. He hasn't fared well when placed in the closer's role, but has shown to be an effective setup man or middle reliever.

Langerhans' main calling card is his defense and his plus arm, but he started to hit in 2004. He has a quick swing, and can hit the ball to all fields. Baseball America rated him a "plus" baserunner in their 20005 Prospect Handbook, but he hasn't been much of a stolen base threat. In limited major-league at-bats (58), he hit .293/.369/.431 against left-handed pitching.

(7) Are there any red flags for either player?

Riske's strikeout ratios dropped dramatically in 2005, but it must be pointed out that his hit ratios fell as well. There's no current injury concerns.

There isn't much to go on with Langerhans, because he's only had 342 major-league at-bats. He's been extremely durable (100+ games every year since 1999), so injuries haven't been an issue. He'll have to hit for more power in order to be a starting outfielder.

(8) Would you make this trade?

Yes. Riske clearly doesn't fit into the Indians' long-term plans, and as it looks right now, he won't figure too prominently in the 2006 bullpen. Langerhans may not be a long-term fix, but he fills an immediate need, and is flexible enough to fill a long-term reserve outfielder role. The Indians save some money (~$1.5M) as well.