Tribe avoids arbitration with five players
CLEVELAND -- With a depleted pitching staff down the stretch and in the postseason, the Indians relied heavily on their bullpen. Cleveland will do so again this year -- and with a relief corps that will cost more than the team's talented starting rotation.
On Friday, the Indians avoided arbitration with five more players, including closer Cody Allen, setup man Bryan Shaw and reliever Zach McAllister. The signings followed a one-year settlement with reliever Dan Otero on Thursday night. Those four arms will team with relief ace Andrew Miller to form the backbone of the Tribe's stalwart bullpen.
Miller is under contract for $9 million this season, and Allen's one-year deal will net the closer $7.35 million. Combined with Shaw ($4.6 million), McAllister ($1.825 million) and Otero ($1.055 million), manager Terry Francona's favorite five arms will earn a combined $23.83 million in the upcoming campaign. There will be two more relief jobs up for grabs this spring.
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On Friday, the Indians also reached a one-year, $3.4-million deal with starter Danny Salazar, who avoided arbitration one day after Trevor Bauer ($3.55 million). Those two will join Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin in a rotation that will make $23.65 million combined in 2017. There are seven pitchers (Zack Greinke, David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Lester, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels and Carsten Sabathia) who will be paid more this season that Cleveland's entire starting staff.
The Indians also avoided arbitration on Friday with outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall with a one-year, $4.3 million deal. The lone arbitration-eligible player not to sign was outfielder Brandon Guyer, who exchanged proposed salary figures with the Indians. According to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman, Guyer's camp filed for $2.3 million, while Cleveland countered with $1.9 million.
Even though Guyer did not sign on Friday, the Indians can still reach an agreement on a contract at any point leading up to his scheduled hearing. This year, arbitration hearings are slated to take place between Jan. 30 and Feb. 17. If Guyer's case goes to a hearing, a three-person panel will listen to arguments from both sides and choose either the salary presented by the team or the player.
The Indians have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 2014, when the team won its cases against former reliever Vinnie Pestano and Tomlin. Prior to that year, the Indians had not gone to a hearing with a player since 1991.
Allen, 28, turned in a 2.51 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 32 saves in 67 games this past season in his third year as the primary closer. In October, Allen registered the highest single-postseason strikeouts per nine innings (15.8) in history among pitchers with at least 10 innings. The closer spun 13 2/3 frames with a flawless ERA, marking only the 16th time in postseason history a pitcher has had at least 13 innings without allowing an earned run.
This past year marked the fourth in a row that Shaw logged at least 70 appearances for the Indians. In 75 games, the righty struck out 69 batters in 66 2/3 innings, ending with a 3.24 ERA. Shaw, 29, was especially strong down the stretch, turning in a 1.66 ERA over the final two months. Since 2013, Shaw leads Major League relievers in games (299) and ranks third in innings (282).
Last season, McAllister turned in a 3.44 ERA in 53 games overall, with a 3.10 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings (51 appearances) as a reliever. The righty posted a 1.44 ERA over the final two months of the season, in which the Indians ran to an American League Central crown. For his career, McAllister has a 2.76 ERA with 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings as a reliever (118 games), compared to a 4.56 ERA and 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings as a starter (68 games).
Salazar, 27, made his first All-Star team in 2016, but he was limited to 25 starts and 137 1/3 innings due to a variety of arm issues (right shoulder, elbow and forearm) in the second half. After going 10-3 with a 2.22 ERA in the first three months (93 1/3 innings), Salazar went 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA in the final three months (44 innings). Overall, the hard-throwing righty had 161 strikeouts against 63 walks with a 3.87 ERA. Salazar is expected to be healthy and ready to go for the '17 campaign.
Chisenhall and Guyer project to be partnered in a platoon in right field this season. Chisenhall hit .295 (.784 OPS) against righty pitching this past season, while Guyer hit .336 (1.021 OPS) against lefties. Overall, Chisenhall hit .286 with eight homers, 25 doubles and 57 RBIs in 126 games. Guyer, who was acquired from the Rays at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, hit .266 overall with nine homers, 17 doubles, 32 RBIs and a Major League-leading 31 hit-by-pitches last season.