This is the one area where the Indians had a net loss due to the trades of Arthur Rhodes and David Riske (getting back only Mota). The question isn't whether next year's bullpen will be an improvement or not (there's a very slim possibility of the bullpen actually being better than it was in 2005), but whether the Indians have the depth in order to survive all the losses this offseason. Remember, Bob Howry left earlier this season in free agency, and Guillermo Mota and Matt Miller have injury issues that may rear their ugly heads in 2006.
The bullpen as it appears now:
CL Bob Wickman
RHP Guillermo Mota
RHP Fernando Cabrera
RHP Rafael Betancourt
LHP Scott Sauerbeck
RHP Matt Miller
The Indians have for some time now gone with 12-man pitching staffs, and that probably won't change in 2006. Jason Davis, Jason Stanford, and Kazuhito Tadano seem the front-runners for the longman/emergency starter role. Davis may get the nod if he doesn't have an option left.
The Indians have put together some pretty good bullpens on the cheap the past couple of years, eschewing multi-year free agents in favor of career minor-leaguers and prospects. That trend will continue in 2006, with each participant on a one-year deal. Guillermo Mota and Bob Wickman will be free agents after the season, and Scott Sauerbeck is a declination of an option away from free agency.
The good news is that the Indians have several players in their system that could help this season, starting with Andrew Brown, Tony Sipp, Edward Mujica, Chris Cooper, and Rafael Perez. Plus they've picked up a couple scrap-heapers in Danny Graves and Steve Karsay in the hopes that either could provide some unexpected innings.
One of the major questions affiliated with the trade of Arthur Rhodes was whether the Indians can go with only one left-hander in the bullpen. If you look at Rhodes' splits, though, left-handers hit much better against him than right-handers.
vs LHP: 14.2 IP, 19 SO, 4 BB, .286 BAA
vs RHP: 28.2 IP, 24 SO, 8 BB, .155 BAA
The last time Rhodes was more effective against left-handers than right-handers was 2002.
Guillermo Mota, in fact, also has a reverse platoon split. He's held left-handers to a lower average than right-handers each season since 2002. So in this case, the hand a reliever throws with doesn't actually tell you who he's most effective against.
What about David Riske? I think the Indians' proposed usage really drove down his trade value. On the surface, Riske put up really good numbers in 2005, but several bad outings led to him rotting in the bullpen down the stretch even though several relievers got hurt. The Indians definitely see Mota as an upgrade over Riske, in that they can use him in high-leverage situations. From all indications, they weren't willing to do that with Riske.