CLEVELAND -- The Indians began chipping away at their arbitration cases on Friday night, signing veteran reliever Dan Otero and outfielder Abraham Almonte to contracts.Cleveland's deals with Otero (two years, $2.5 million) and Almonte ($825,000) helped trim the team's list of arbitration candidates to five players. Prior to Friday's 8
CLEVELAND -- The Indians began chipping away at their arbitration cases on Friday night, signing veteran reliever Dan Otero and outfielder Abraham Almonte to contracts.
Cleveland's deals with Otero (two years, $2.5 million) and Almonte ($825,000) helped trim the team's list of arbitration candidates to five players. Prior to Friday's 8 p.m. ET deadline, the Indians tendered 2018 contracts to that group, which includes closer Cody Allen, starters Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar, reliever Zach McAllister and outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall.
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The five tendered players can file for arbitration on Jan. 9, and barring a contract agreement ahead of time, the two sides will exchange proposed salary figures for the 2018 season on Jan. 12. A contract can be agreed upon at any point leading up to a player's scheduled arbitration hearing. During the hearings, which run from Jan. 29-Feb. 16 this offseason, a three-person panel hears both cases and chooses one of the two salaries.
The Indians prefer 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.
Otero has become an important piece within Cleveland's bullpen, which led the Majors with a 2.89 ERA in 2017. Cleveland acquired the right-hander from the Phillies in exchange for cash considerations prior to the '16 season, and Otero quickly found a home in the Tribe's relief corps. Over the past two seasons combined, Otero has fashioned a 2.14 ERA in 130 2/3 innings with a 62.9 percent ground-ball rate (ninth-best among MLB relievers in that span).
Last season, Otero turned in a 2.85 ERA with 38 strikeouts against nine walks in 60 innings (52 games). He will turn 33 on Feb. 19.
As things currently stand, the Indians' bullpen projects to include Andrew Miller, Allen, Otero, McAllister and Tyler Olson, with a handful of arms in the mix for the remaining jobs. Relievers Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith, who served as setup men for Cleveland last season, are both free agents this winter.
Almonte, 28, does not project to be in Cleveland's starting outfield, but he offers experienced depth as a switch-hitter capable of playing all three positions. Last season, Almonte was limited to 69 games due to a pair of stints on the disabled list (first for a right biceps strain and then for a left hamstring strain). In 172 at-bats, he hit .233 with 14 extra-base hits and a .681 OPS. Almonte has one Minor League option remaining.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.