RELIEVERS: Time to make a closer trade

This week, the column moves in a different direction and examines what you will need to trade a closer or trade for a closer. Rather than merely describe a basic methodology, you will get an example using the AL Tout Wars rosters as they stood on June 20. The goal is to find a trade that could be considered a win-win for an owner who should be targeting saves and an owner who should be trading surplus saves. Here are the saves standings as of June 20 in AL Tout Wars, with the distribution of relievers who have at least five saves:

            Sv  Pts  closers and quasi-closers YTD
            == ====  ==================================
Erickson    35 12.0  Chapman 19, Treinen 16
Collette    30 11.0  B.Hand 20, Alvarado 6
Bender      23 10.0  Kennedy 8, Brasier 7
DiFino      23  9.0  Osuna 17, Givens 6
Podhorzer   22  8.0  Parker 9, D.Castillo 7, Leclerc 5
Davitt      22  7.0  S.Greene 21
Colton/Wolf 16  6.0  A.Colome 15
Leibowitz   15  5.0  H.Robles 11
Gianella    12  4.0  K.Giles 11, R.Elias 7
Schechter   10  3.0  T.Rogers 8
Liss         8  2.0  S.Kelley 8
Dennis       5  1.0  (none)

And then here are the projections for saves by these relievers over the balance of the season:

            Sv  Pts  closers and quasi-closers YTD
            == ====  ==================================
Erickson    36 12.0  Chapman 17, Treinen 19
DiFino      30 11.0  Osuna 18, Givens 12
Podhorzer   30 10.0  Parker 11, D.Castillo 11, Leclerc 8
Collette    28  9.0  B.Hand 19, Alvarado 9
Gianella    24  8.0  K.Giles 17, R.Elias 7
Bender      21  7.0  Kennedy 12, Brasier 9
Davitt      18  6.0  S.Greene 18
Colton/Wolf 15  5.0  A.Colome 15
Leibowitz   10  4.0  H.Robles 10
Schechter    8  3.0  T.Rogers 8
Liss         8  2.0  S.Kelley 8
Dennis       -  1.0  (none)

Presuming that the projections are correct plus or minus, (and with saves they are never correct), and presuming that all other relievers on teams are equally likely to vulture the same number of saves going forward (also never true), here are the end-of-year saves standings if no trades are made:

            Sv  Pts  
            == ====  
Erickson    71 12.0 
Collette    58 11.0 
DiFino      53 10.0 
Podhorzer   52  9.0 
Bender      44  8.0
Davitt      40  7.0 
Gianella    36  6.0 
Colton/Wolf 31  5.0 
Leibowitz   25  4.0 
Schechter   18  3.0 
Liss        16  2.0
Dennis       5  1.0

If we add or subtract saves from each of these teams, we can quickly see who can sell, who should stand pat, and who should consider buying saves:

            Sv  Pts add 10 sub 10 add 15 sub 15
            == ==== ====== ====== ====== ======
Erickson    71 12.0    0      0      0     -1
Collette    58 11.0    0     -2     +1     -3
DiFino      53 10.0   +1     -2     +1     -3
Podhorzer   52  9.0   +2     -1     +2     -2
Bender      44  8.0   +2     -2     +3     -3
Davitt      40  7.0   +1     -2     +3     -3
Gianella    36  6.0   +2     -1     +2     -2 
Colton/Wolf 31  5.0   +2     -1     +3     -3
Leibowitz   25  4.0   +1     -2     +3     -2 (can only trade 10)
Schechter   18  3.0   +1     -1     +2     -1 (can only trade 8)
Liss        16  2.0   +2      0     +3      0 (can only trade 8)
Dennis       5  1.0    0      0

From this crude analysis, we can see that Erickson should consider selling a closer and that it should be a seller's market--with at least five teams standing to gain two points from adding ten saves, and five teams possibly adding three points in the standings from a 15-save closer. Erickson has Aroldis Chapman (LHP, NYY) and Blake Treinen (RHP, OAK). How much should they cost a buying team?

Erickson YTD        Sv  IP   DOM  CMD HR/9 xERA WHIP BPV  $
===============     == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === ==
A.Chapman (NYY) (L) 19 27.7 12.7  4.9  0.3 2.48 0.90 184 24
B.Treinen (OAK)     16 35.3  9.2  1.9  0.8 4.52 1.42  54 16
Erickson proj.      Sv  IP   DOM  CMD HR/9 xERA WHIP BPV  $
===============     == ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== === ==
A.Chapman (NYY) (L) 17  32  14.9  3.3  0.6 2.48 1.03 171 24
B.Treinen (OAK)     19  40   9.9  2.8  0.7 3.47 1.20 110 23

Given the high skills level and excellent projections for both of these relievers, buyer teams should be prepared to trade someone worth $20-25 for either one of these relievers. Treinen has a rough 1.9 Cmd ratio, and a 4.52 xERA, but his 3.31 actual ERA has been perfectly playable and the projection remains rosy. Chapman had a ridiculous May and should continue to get gobs of saves with more strikeouts and great peripherals.

The next question for buyers is what does Erickson need? He is in sixth place with 68.0 overall points and is projected to finish seventh. He should be hunting for a player or combination of players who can realistically add two or three points to his end total:

            YTD  proj  pts  +/- 
          ===== =====  === =====
runs        405   397  3.0 +1/0
home runs   116    93  3.0  0/0
rbis        393   356  4.0  0/-1
steals       49    60  7.0 +1/-1
OBP       .3328 .3349  9.0 +2/-1
wins         27    32  3.0  0/0
ERA        4.36  3.86  7.0 +1/-2
WHIP       1.229 1.277 8.0  0/-2
strikeouts  517   532  5.0 +1/-1

Erickson would be best off finding help for OBP, steals, and runs in exchange for a closer. The tricky part is that he cannot cause harm to ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts, or he will lose points in those categories. That will mostly rule out Chapman, and he will likely need to find a way to get those categories back for losing Treinen versus Treinen's projection as well.

Here are position players who best fit Erickson's needs:

proj              owner      AB  R SB OBP  $
============== ===========  === == == === ==
M.Brantley     Bender       293 40  4 357 24
A.Judge        Bender       176 33  3 381 14
M.Olson        Bender       266 39  1 341 13
L.Voit         Bender       247 40  0 351 13

A.Cabrera      Colton/Wolf  292 43  3 341 20
M.Chapman      Colton/Wolf  302 50  0 346 17
K.Calhoun      Colton/Wolf  251 40  3 338 14

J.Ramirez      Davitt       316 43 17 341 23
M.Kepler       Davitt       283 51  2 359 22
A.Benintendi   Davitt       320 48 11 341 21
G.Torres       Davitt       286 41  5 341 19

N.Cruz         Leibowitz    286 43  1 346 20
C.Santana      Leibowitz    300 51  3 381 19
E.Encarnacion  Leibowitz    259 46  1 362 18
A.Hicks        Leibowitz    242 41  5 354 14

But does trading these kinds of players hurt the owners more than Treinen would help them? I won't bore you with the standings analysis of each of these four teams, but it is necessary to understand whether any of these owners would be motivated to part with such excellent offensive players for a closer. And from Erickson's standpoint, it would have to include steals, which means targeting Davitt and Jose Ramirez (3B, CLE) or Andrew Benintendi (OF, BOS). In this case, getting either of those hitters for Treinen would add points to Davitt's end total and Erickson's end total, all things being equal (and in the alternate reality that HQ projections are exactly what will happen). Can you believe the projections for Ramirez? His slump continues and there seems to be no end in sight. Benintendi would be the less risky target here and would still get Erickson added points.

A word on using projections: what else are you going to do? Certainly, you can fudge projections in cases like Ramirez or combine them or make your best guess as to whether players will finish above or below those projections. And some projections are better than others, so by all means, use the best ones you can get. But understand that in an imperfect world, you need something to go on, and projections remain the best way to gauge whether you are adding or subtracting points from your end total. As season-long roto owners, you care only about the end total.

Next week, we examine the top BPV relievers from June. Follow me @dougdennis41


Click here to subscribe

  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.