LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Bryan Shaw has been not only one of the most durable arms in baseball over the past five seasons but also in the history of the Indians' franchise. That track record as manager Terry Francona's go-to setup man earned the right-hander a lucrative free-agent contract.
On Tuesday night, multiple reports indicated that Shaw reached a three-year deal with the Rockies, pending a physical. According to ESPN, the pact was worth $9 million annually, which is the same salary that Indians relief ace Andrew Miller will make in 2018. It was never realistic for Cleveland to retain Shaw, but the club's need to replace his innings is very real.
"When you lose a guy like Bryan, you almost need two guys to replace him," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said on Monday. "We do have some guys that did well in the bullpen last year that will have to absorb more meaningful innings."
As things stand, the Indians have Miller and closer Cody Allen in the fold for next season, along with Dan Otero, Zach McAllister, Nicholas Goody and Tyler Olson. Shawn Armstrong, who is out of Minor League options, will also be in the mix for a relief job. Given the depth of Cleveland's starting rotation, one of Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger or Danny Salazar could be in the bullpen to start the year, too.
This offseason, Shaw and Joe Smith hit free agency for the Tribe. With Shaw off the board, the Indians might still look to re-sign Smith, who posted a 3.33 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 10 walks in 54 innings between stints with Toronto and Cleveland last season. The Indians will surely be exploring other alternatives via trade and free agency to bolster a relief corps that led the Majors with a 2.89 ERA in 2017.
"We'll continue to look for opportunities to add to that group if we can," Antonetti said.
The Indians are also being mindful that Miller and Allen will be eligible for free agency next offseason. That played a part in Cleveland's recent decision to sign Otero to a two-year, $2.5 million extension that includes a team option for 2020. Allen is eligible for salary arbitration for the final time this winter, and Cleveland will likely broach the idea of an extension.
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As for Shaw, he is the only pitcher in the Majors with at least 70 appearances in each of the past five years, and the first to piece together a five-year run of that kind since Smith did so from 2011-15. Shaw and Jeurys Familia are the only pitchers in baseball with at least 70 games and 75 innings in a season three times in the past 10 years. Over the past five, Shaw has posted a 3.11 ERA, 3.45 FIP with the most games (378), innings (tied, 358 2/3) and pitches thrown (5,892) among Major League relievers.
Shaw holds the Indians' single-season record for appearances (80 in 2014), and his 378 career relief outings with Cleveland are second only to Allen (386) in team history.
Last year, Shaw had a 3.52 ERA with 73 strikeouts against 22 walks in 76 2/3 innings and 79 appearances (tied for the AL lead). The right-hander throws a cutter-slider mix and saw his average velocity climb to 95.5 mph in September, compared to 93.7 mph in April, per Statcast™. His 55.9 percent ground-ball rate in '17 was his best single-season mark since 2012, and the 18 double plays he induced led MLB relievers.
"The way I view it," Francona said this offseason, "is it's almost like the offensive lineman that shows up every game, and the only time people really talk about them is when he misses a block. [Shaw] took so much pride in being available, and he carried so much of the load for us for five years. It is remarkable."