Cases Closed – Indians Again Avoid Arbitration

For a long stretch of 23 years, the Cleveland Indians made a habit of avoiding arbitration hearings with its players. That streak ended in 2014, but the Indians ensured they would avoid the uncomfortable process in 2016 when they signed their remaining five arbitration-eligible players to one-year tenders on Thursday and Friday.

Closer Cody Allen, converted outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, reliever Jeff Manship, and pitcher Josh Tomlin all agreed to one-year deals for next season on Friday and setup man Bryan Shaw did similar on Thursday, closing all of the open and potential arbitration cases for the Indians front office to deliberate on.

With arbitration season concluded, the Indians have now avoided taking cases to arbitrators for the second consecutive season.

“We are really pleased to have reached agreements on all six of our arbitration-eligible players,” new Indians general manager Mike Chernoff shared in a story on “We look forward to the 2016 season and to the roles each of these guys will play on our team this year.”

Allen easily (and deservingly so) earned the largest performance raise of the four on the day, and in his first year of eligibility no less. He agreed to a $4.15 million tender, a healthy jump from the $547,100 he earned in his third season in the Majors last year.

Allen, very much under the radar in terms of attention given to closers for his efforts on the mound, quietly converted 34 of 38 saves for the 81-80 Indians last season, shattering his previous career-best of 24 set the season before. He led the league with 58 games finished while posting a 2-5 record and a 2.99 ERA, his third straight season with an ERA below three. He struck out 99 batters in 69 1/3 innings, putting him in rare territory for relief pitchers in this era. He averaged 12.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

The strong end of the season push by Chisenhall after his quick conversion to outfielder kept him in the Indians’ plans moving forward after struggling to find consistency as the club’s regular third baseman and eventually landing back in Triple-A with the Clippers. In his second year of arbitration eligibility, he inked a one-year, $2.725 million contract. Last season, he avoided arbitration with a $2.25 million deal.

Right-handed reliever Manship was a pleasant surprise for the Indians staff last season, coming up in mid-June from Triple-A Columbus after signing a minor league deal with the club prior to the season. He appeared in 32 games, working 39 1/3 innings and posting a 1-0 record with three holds, a 0.76 WHIP, and a 0.92 ERA. He will make $765,000 in the coming season with the deal announced one day prior to his 31st birthday on Saturday.

Tomlin was the veteran of the bunch to the arbitration process. In his final season of arbitration eligibility before he hits free agency, the 31-year-old Tomlin reached a $2.25 million deal with the club. Injuries once again limited the starter on the mound, but in his smaller sample size, he produced for the Tribe, earning a 7-2 record in ten starts with two complete games. He had a 3.02 ERA in those starts and posted a 0.84 WHIP. The only significant blemish on his stat sheet may have been the 13 homers allowed in 65 2/3 innings of work, but eleven of the blasts were solo shots.

David Maxwell/Getty Images
David Maxwell/Getty Images

The club secured the back end bridge of the bullpen on Thursday when they agreed to a deal with Shaw slotting in at $2.75 million for next season. Shaw has been the primary workhorse for manager Terry Francona during his time back in the Cleveland dugout. The righty toppled the 70-game mark for the third straight season, as the setup man was 3-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 74 appearances while earning a pair of saves. He appeared in a league-high 80 games in 2014 and was rewarded with a $1.55 million deal to avoid arbitration last offseason.

The previous Friday, the Indians avoided arbitration with starter-turned-reliever Zach McAllister on a one-year, $1.3 million deal.

The Indians last went to arbitration in the winter of 2014, ending a run dating back to 1991 when both starting pitcher Greg Swindell and infielder Jerry Browne went to arbitration with Cleveland. Former Tribe reliever Vinnie Pestano and Tomlin each challenged the Indians’ offers and both players lost. Tomlin sought $975,000 that offseason, while arbitrators ruled in the Indians’ favor at a sum of $800,000. Pestano asked for $1.45 million while the Indians offered $975,000.

The deals for the Tribe’s six arbitration guys fall right in line with projections from The largest disparity was in Tomlin’s contract, as the website projected $3.1 million, while he came to terms at $2.25 million, a difference of $850,000. The deal on Manship was $65,000 over the site’s projections and Shaw’s was $50,000 below.

The site approximated $14.1 million to the six players, while the Indians will pay the group $13.94 million, putting their numbers within $160,000 of each other.

While the arbitration process is avoided, the club may now go to work on some potential long-term extension options, including a strong look at Allen after his sizable raise. He has previously indicated a desire to sign such a deal with the organization and the Indians may find it in their own interests to consider doing so before his contract figures inflate beyond their comfort zone.

Main Photo: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

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