The Cleveland Indians checked off another box on the offseason to-do list on Friday when it signed two players to one-year contracts and tendered contracts to their remaining five arbitration eligible players on the roster.
Reliever Dan Otero and outfielder Abraham Almonte each agreed to one-year contracts with the Indians to avoid arbitration. The Indians also tendered offers to pitchers Cody Allen, Trevor Bauer, Zach McAllister, and Danny Salazar as well as outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall.
Otero, 32, signed on the dotted line for $1.3 million. The right-handed reliever appeared in 52 games for the Indians in his second season with the club in 2017, going 3-0 with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. MLB Trade Rumors had projected that Otero could earn around $1.4 million in arbitration.
Almonte was one of the players who seemed most at risk for a non-tender designation at the end of the day on Friday, but instead, the 28-year-old was retained by the Indians organization with a salary of $825,000 for the 2018 season. The switch-hitting outfielder was limited by injuries last season and struggled when healthy, finishing the year with a .233/.314/.366 slash with eight doubles, three triples, three homers, and 14 RBI. He was projected by MLBTR to see $1.1M in pay for the coming season.
With Otero and Almonte under contract, that leaves just five arbitration-eligible players left to work with over potential contract offers prior to possible arbitration hearings. Players can file for arbitration on January 9, giving players and front offices a little over a month to work over numbers for next season.
Salary figures in advance of the hearings are exchanged on January 12. Arbitration cases are scheduled to occur between January 29 and February 16.
The Indians have made it good practice to come to terms before cases reach the hearing stage. Since 1991, the team has gone to arbitration just twice, winning a pair of cases against current starting pitcher Josh Tomlin and former reliever Vinnie Pestano in 2014.
With time to negotiate, there is a chance that some of the players eligible this winter could be in line for longer term deals.
Allen is in his final year of arbitration eligibility and appears in line for a sizeable increase in salary before hitting free agency following the 2018 season. The Indians bullpen could already be in line to lose free agents Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith this offseason and Allen, McAllister, and Andrew Miller are all set to hit the open market next offseason. Bullpen depth at the minor league level is slim, especially at the upper levels of the system, making Allen’s situation an important one to observe. He has been projected to make $10.8M for the 2018 season by MLBTR.
Bauer could also be an extension candidate as he came into his own this past season with the best numbers of his six-year career. The 26-year-old hard-throwing right-hander went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 32 games (31 starts) in the 2017 season. His strikeout rate was the best of his career while he fell just four strikeouts short of the 200 mark for the year, and his walk rate was the best of his six big league seasons. He is still under contract through the 2020 season and is projected to make $7.7M next season, more than doubling his pay from 2017.
Chisenhall ($5.8M), Salazar ($5.2M), and McAllister ($2.4M) are also in line for healthy jumps in their base pays for the coming year.
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