It came down to the final day for many, but the Cleveland Indians have been able to avoid several uncomfortable arbitration hearings this winter as they announced deals with seven eligible players on contract figures for the coming 2017 season.
Friday marked the deadline for teams to exchange contract figures. The deals eliminated seven of the eight players with whom the Indians were potentially going to have to go to arbitration hearings, scheduled to occur between January 30 and February 17. The team can still reach an agreement between now and then with outfielder Brandon Guyer, the lone player eligible who did not come to terms. The two sides were a reported $400,000 apart between figures, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Bauer and the Indians agreed to a $3.55 million deal for the 2017 season. The fifth-year pro, who will turn 27 on Tuesday, started the 2016 campaign in the bullpen but as the starting rotation dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness, he was able to jump back into his old role and prevent the team from being in a potential crisis in its starting five. He set new career highs in a handful of categories and finished the season with a 12-8 record with a 4.26 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 190 innings over 35 games (28 starts).
Bauer was projected to receive $3.7 million by the number crunchers at MLBTradeRumors.com.
Otero, 31 years old and one of the biggest surprise relievers in baseball last season, signed for $1.055 million. Otero’s fifth Major League season and first in Cleveland was arguably the best of his career and marked an impressive bounce back year after a disappointing 2015 with Oakland. His 1.53 ERA was one of the top marks in baseball, trailing only Baltimore All-Star Zach Britton’s 0.54 and fellow Indians reliever Andrew Miller’s 1.45. He earned five wins in relief and his second career save, struck out a career-high 57 batters, and worked a career-low 0.91 WHIP on the mound.
He was projected to receive $1.2 million for 2017.
The team knocked out five of the remaining six cases on Friday.
The team and right-handed starter Danny Salazar, who turned 27 on Wednesday, agreed to a one-year, $3.4 million agreement. One of the key pieces of the club’s dominant starting rotation, Salazar put together a solid season overall around some injury problems and was named to his first career All-Star team in July. He missed outings throughout the season while dealing with elbow and shoulder problems, but still put together an 11-6 record with a 3.87 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 25 starts.
Salazar was projected to make in the market of $3.8 million.
The biggest money maker of the bunch was 28-year-old closer Cody Allen, who will make $7.35 million in 2017. Allen generally goes unmentioned in discussions about the best closers in the game, but the fifth-year man has saved 90 games in 101 opportunities over the last three seasons since becoming the team’s regular fireman. He was 3-5 in 2016 with a 2.51 ERA and 1.00 WHIP while reaching the 68-inning mark for the fourth consecutive season. His 87 strikeouts were again near the top of the list for closers in the game and he has now struck out 277 batters in the last three years (207 innings pitched) for a 12.0 strikeout per nine rate.
MLBTradeRumors.com projected Allen to make $7.7 million after making $4.15 million in his first arbitration eligible season.
Allen’s setup man, Bryan Shaw, came to terms at $4.6 million. In his sixth season in the Majors and fourth in Cleveland, the reliable bullpen arm led the American League in appearances for the second time in the last three years. Since joining the Indians bullpen prior to the 2013 season, he has worked in a combined 299 games with a 3.00 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Last season, he was 2-5 with a 3.24 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP in 75 outings.
Shaw was one of three Indians players to exceed the projections of MLB Trade Rumors, as he was projected at $4.5 million in his third year of arbitration eligibility. He received a $2.75 million contract last offseason.
Right-hander Zach McAllister, who has reinvented himself as a middle reliever for the club over the last two seasons, will make $1.825 million this coming season. He was 3-2 in 53 games (including two spot starts) this past season, working 52 1/3 innings and posting a 3.44 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP with 54 strikeouts. The 6’6”, 29-year-old right-hander in his sixth season in the Majors with Cleveland was a much different pitcher in the second half of the campaign. After posting a 5.40 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in 30 games before the All-Star break, he had a 1.40 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 23 appearances after the Midsummer Classic.
After making $1.3 million to avoid arbitration last season, McAllister had been projected for a raise to $1.7 million.
Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall, one of two position players for Cleveland eligible for arbitration this winter, inked at $4.3 million. The 28-year-old wrapped up his sixth season with the Indians with regular playing time in right field for a second season. He missed time briefly at the start of the season but was the regular right fielder for the club and hit a career-best .286 over the course of the season in 126 games. His power numbers were down some, but he still drove in 57 runs on the year, two short of matching his best mark in the Majors two years earlier.
Chisenhall, who will not become a free agent until after the 2018 season, was projected at $4.1 million.
If the Indians and Guyer can come to an agreement on their differences, the Tribe will have gone to arbitration with its players just twice since 1991. Both of those cases came in 2014, when reliever Vinnie Pestano and starter Josh Tomlin both went to arbitration and lost their respective bids.
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