The deadline to exchange arbitration figures with eligible players was Friday and the Indians did one better in a few cases, signing seven of eight such players to one year deals. These signings have pushed the Indians guaranteed salaries for 2017 over $112M, the highest mark entering a season in franchise history although still below the $117M they finished 2016 with. Projecting the unknown salaries brings the expected Opening Day Indians salary to ~$119.3M which would be a franchise record.
Trevor Bauer – $3.55M
As a free agent, a #4 starter on the level of Bauer could easily command more than $10M in free agency, so the Indians have to be happy to have kept Bauer for slightly less than he was projected for his first year of arbitration eligibility ($3.70 according to MLB Trade Rumors). With three more years of arbitration left thanks to his Super 2 status, there was little reason for the Indians to look for a long term extension.
Bauer’s contract situation is an interesting one because the Diamondbacks signed him to a Major League deal out of the draft. Because of this, he actually made more in 2015 ($1.94M) than he did in 2016 ($1.67M) as he went from a guaranteed year on a long term contract to a pre-arbitration player. MLB rules dictate that a player can only take a pay cut of a certain amount, so the Indians weren’t able to pay him the MLB minimum like most pre-arb players, but he still took a cut. Now in arbitration, he should expect significant raises each of the next three seasons if he can keep up production.
Dan Otero – $1.05M
The Indians top reliever in 2016 according to fWAR, Otero nearly doubled his MLB minimum salary from 2016 in his first year of arbitration. Even so, he is well below market value in a year where multiple closers have signed deals above $15M per year and Brad Ziegler can get two years guaranteed for a total of $16M.
Zach McAllister – $1.825M
While Otero and Bauer came in slightly under their projections, McAllister was a little higher than expected despite being less important to the team as a whole. In his second year of arbitration, McAllister received a raise of about $500K. All in all, this is still well below market value for a pitcher who was worth about 1 WAR last year and has had a 2.76 ERA and 10.2 K/9 in his career in relief (compared to 4.56 ERA and 7.4 K/9 as a starter).
Bryan Shaw – $4.6M
The Indians only player in his final year of arbitration eligibility, Shaw unsurprisingly saw a massive increase in salary of nearly $2M. This was almost dead on with MLBTR’s expectations and considering his 1.4 WAR in 2016 while being used almost exclusively in high pressure situations, it was well deserved. Between these three pitchers (Otero, McAllister and Shaw), the Indians have one of the best middle relief groups in baseball at a price considerably lower than the market rate.
Cody Allen – $7.35M
Well below market value for a closer, Allen will be the Indians second most expensive reliever behind Andrew Miller ($9M) and third most expensive pitcher overall (Corey Kluber $7.7M). Should he continue to be one of the most dominant closers in baseball, Allen could break the bank in 2018, his final year of arbitration eligibility before hitting free agency, should the Indians not sign him to an extension. Given the Indians hesitancy to sign relievers to long term deals, the amount of money already allocated to Edwin Encarnacion and the escalating contracts of Jason Kipnis and Kluber, this seems to be unlikely at this point.
Danny Salazar – $3.4M
The steal of the off-season, the Indians will pay Salazar less than $4M as he heads into what should be his prime at the age of 27. While some injury risk lingers (likely the reason the two sides have yet to come upon an extension like those given to Kluber and Carrasco), Salazar still has the potential to be the best pitcher on the Indians staff and he still has four years of team control remaining. In some ways, 2016 was a step back for the fireballer as he dealt on and off with injuries to his throwing arm and control issues, but his K-rate rose to 10.6 and he made his first All-Star Game. Assuming he stays healthy, there’s no reason to expect anything from a real breakout season from Salazar in 2017.
Lonnie Chisenhall – $4.3M
Slightly higher than his $4.1M projections, Chisenhall was the final Indians arbitration eligible player to sign before Friday’s deadline to exchange figures. A Super 2 qualifier, this was Chisenhall’s third of four arbitration eligible seasons. With his signing, 16 players on the Indians roster have guaranteed Major League contracts for the 2017 season.
With nearly all the Indians players signing deals, the only one left in limbo is outfielder Brandon Guyer. MLB Trade Rumors projects him at $2M and he is still able to work out a deal with the team from any point between now until whenever his arbitration hearing is scheduled. He filed for arbitration at $2.3M while the Indians have countered with $1.9M. Guyer is in his second of three arbitration eligible seasons, making him a potential free agent after 2018. The right handed half of the Indians projected right field platoon made $1.185M last year.