Lindor, Clevinger among arb-eligible Indians

January 9th, 2020

CLEVELAND -- The deadline to exchange arbitration figures is Friday at 1 p.m. ET, and the Indians have five players to attempt to sign in order to avoid an arbitration hearing.

Shortstop and outfielder enter their second year of arbitration eligibility, as outfielder , starter and reliever all enter their first. Maybe the Tribe won’t ink all five of their arbitration-eligible players by Friday afternoon, but the club is expecting to have some under contract prior to the deadline.

“As many deals as we can get done as soon as we can get them done is always our preference,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “It's hard to handicap that at this moment. But I would hope and expect we'd have at least some of those players signed by Friday.”

So, how exactly does the arbitration process work? Here’s everything you need to know heading into the deadline:

What is the deadline?

Throughout the offseason, teams and their arbitration-eligible players are constantly trying to come to an agreement for a one-year or multiyear deal in order to avoid an arbitration hearing. If the two parties cannot settle by Friday at noon ET, then both the club and the player must file a figure that they each believe the player’s salary should be in 2020.

This doesn’t mean that the negotiations come to a stop. The team and its player have until the hearing date that would be scheduled in February to reach a settlement. However, some clubs decide to take a “file-and-trial” approach -- like the Indians did with Trevor Bauer in 2018 -- where all discussions end after the January deadline and they go to a hearing.

Whether they take that approach or the two sides just can’t come to an agreement, they’d each then pitch their case at the hearing for why they believe the player should earn the salary that they filed prior to the deadline.

Who is eligible?

Generally, players who have at least three years of Major League service become eligible for salary arbitration if they do not already have a contract for the following season. After six years of service time, players who are not under contract with their respective clubs become free agents.

This year, the Indians will be trying to lock up Lindor, Clevinger, Naquin, DeShields and Wittgren for at least the 2020 season. The club already avoided arbitration with catcher last month on a one-year, $2 million deal.

When do hearings take place?

Feb. 3-21.

How rare is a hearing?

Hearings became more frequent for the Indians over the last two seasons with Bauer, who said he enjoyed the process and wanted to experience it all three years he was eligible. But prior to his two hearings in ’18 and ’19, the Tribe had only gone to a hearing two times since 1991, when Cleveland won its cases against pitchers Josh Tomlin and Vinnie Pestano. Bauer won both of his cases the last two offseasons.

What are the Indians projected to spend in arbitration?

According to an estimate by Cot’s Contracts, the Indians are projected to dish out $27.5 million in arbitration, with Lindor taking $17 million, Clevinger earning $4.25 million, DeShields receiving $2.75 million, Naquin getting $2 million and Wittgren taking $1.5 million.

Could there be a multiyear deal?

Indians fans shouldn’t hold their breath in hopes that a Lindor extension could arise in this process. However, signing Clevinger to a multiyear deal may not be off the table. After declining Jason Kipnis’ $16.5 million option and moving Corey Kluber’s $17.5 million salary, the Indians freed up plenty of payroll space from last season. Maybe the team is hoping to spend that on a free-agent outfielder like Yasiel Puig, or maybe it could go toward locking up Clevinger long term, which they’ve noted is something they’re interested in pursuing. But the Indians know just how hard it will be to extend Lindor.

“Chris [Antonetti] and [general manager Mike Chernoff] have been really up front about us wanting to keep Frankie as long as we can,” Indians manager Terry Francona said on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday. “We know we can have him for two years for sure. Can we make it go longer and still sustain the rest of our team? I don’t know. That’s a challenge. That’s hard. I mean, there’s no getting around it. I wish I could say, ‘Yeah, it’s going to be easy,’ but it’s going to be hard.”

Where could the Indians’ payroll stand?

The projections from Cot’s Contracts give us a good indication of what each of the players in this year’s arbitration class should earn, but they won’t necessarily be exact. However, if we take that estimated $27.5 million and add it to the contracts that are already on the books, Cot’s projects the Tribe’s Opening Day payroll to be approximately $91.4 million, which is $28 million less than last season. That should leave more than enough wiggle room for another deal to be made prior to the start of the season.