Indians avoid arbitration with Allen

Tribe closer saved 30 games and had a 2.94 ERA in '17

January 11th, 2018

CLEVELAND -- has developed into one of baseball's most consistent closers over the past few years, and will once again serve as the stopper at the back end of the Indians' bullpen this year. The future beyond that is uncertain, and makes this summer a critical one for Cleveland.

On Wednesday night, the Indians agreed to terms with Allen on a one-year contract for the 2018 campaign, avoiding arbitration with the closer in his final year of eligibility. The pact is worth $10.575 million, according to the Associated Press. Next offseason, both Allen and relief ace -- the primary weapons within the Tribe's bullpen -- will be eligible for free agency.

That is a potential problem for the Indians to solve at a later date.

"I'd be losing a lot more sleep if we didn't have those two awesome relievers [this year]," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, last month. "We're not always going to be able to have guys that are under control for multiple years. At some point, guys are going to approach the end of their contracts."

Cleveland also agreed to one-year deals with reliever Zach McAllister and outfielder on Thursday and Friday, respectively, whittling the Indians' pile of arbitration cases down to two: starters and . Friday is the deadline for any unsigned arbitration-eligible players to exchange proposed salary figures with their teams. If necessary, arbitration hearings will take place between Jan. 29 and Feb. 16.

Cleveland's preference is to avoid a hearing if possible, and have only reached that stage in the annual process twice, dating back to 1991. Prior to the 2014 season, Cleveland went to arbitration with both Josh Tomlin and Vinnie Pestano, and the team won both cases. A deal can be reached at any point leading up to a player's scheduled hearing.

Allen, who earned $7.35 million last season, had 30 saves to go along with a 2.94 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings (69 appearances) for the American League Central-champion Indians in '17. The right-hander has logged a minimum of 67 games and 67 1/3 innings in each of the past five years for Cleveland, which selected him in the 23rd round of the 2011 Draft.

Over the past five years combined, Allen has appeared in 359 games, which ranks third overall in the Majors. The only other righty ahead of Allen on that leaderboard is , who worked 378 games as a setup man for the Indians for the past five seasons before signing with the Rockies as a free agent this winter.

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During that five-year period, Allen turned in a 2.59 ERA with 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 122 saves.

As things currently stand, the Indians' bullpen beyond Allen and Miller projects to include McAllister, Dan Otero, and . Barring a trade, Cleveland could always move one of its starters (Clevinger, Tomlin or Salazar) to the 'pen. There will also be a handful of other pitchers, including a mix of non-roster invitees, in the running for relief jobs this spring. The Indians are also continuing to explore the trade and free-agent markets for bullpen help.