Arbitration Eligibles: Cleveland Indians

The Indians are next in our 2013 Arbitration Eligibles series.  Matt Swartz's salary projections are below.

Choo, Perez, and Masterson represent the Tribe's big money arbitration trio, and all will be tendered contracts.  Choo, 30, had a strong bounceback season and will be entering his contract year.  Jon Heyman of CBS Sports talked to Chris Antonetti in August, and the Indians' GM explained that Choo and agent Scott Boras have not been receptive to an extension.  Choo's trade value may be limited by the lone year of remaining control and his struggles against left-handed pitching.

Perez made headlines in September when he was mildly critical of the Indians' payroll and front office in an interview with Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  The closer later hashed things out with Antonetti in a long meeting.  After that, Perez touched on his future with MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, saying, "That's a business decision that they're going to have to make.  That's not up to me. That's not my decision. I have two years left here at least. Right now, it's up to them. I think whatever they decide to do is definitely going to tell you which way the team is going one way or the other."  In other words, if the Indians trade Perez for cheaper players, it'll represent a step in the rebuilding direction.  On that point, I disagree: the value placed on the save statistic will continue to artifically inflate Perez's salary next year, and if the Indians can get a solid return for him, that's just a good baseball decision.

At a salary approaching $6MM, Masterson will be pricey for a guy coming off a 4.93 ERA.  He's better than that, and maybe the comfort of having Terry Francona as manager again will provide a small boost.

Of the team's seven remaining arbitration eligible players, many are non-tender candidates: Lillibridge, Rafael Perez, Hannahan, and Slowey.  Slowey will pitch in the Dominican Winter League following an injury-shortened 2012 campaign in which he did not return to the Majors.  Without the Rockies picking up part of the tab on Slowey this time, he's headed for a non-tender.  Lillibridge couldn't reproduce his strong part-time showing in 2011.  The Red Sox acquired Lillibridge in the Kevin Youkilis trade in late June, but designated him for assignment in less than a month, at which point the Indians got him in a minor deal.

Rafael Perez came down with shoulder soreness in March, missed most of the season, and had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in late September.  Even if he is ready for Spring Training, Perez doesn't represent a great risk of $2MM.  Hannahan, typically well-regarded for his defense, could stick around for a reduced role behind Lonnie Chisenhall.  Or, the Indians could seek a cheaper backup at third base.

Sipp has troublesome flyball/home run tendencies, though at a million bucks or so he may be retained.  Smith will remain a key cog in next year's bullpen.  With Carlos Santana spending some time at first base, Marson received more starts at catcher than a typical backup.  I expect him to be tendered a contract.

A total arbitration estimate doesn't mean much given the different trade and non-tender scenarios for the Indians.  But if Choo, Chris Perez, Masterson, Smith, Sipp, and Marson are retained, we're estimating $25.3MM for six arbitration eligible players.

Matt Swartz's arbitration projections are available exclusively at MLB Trade Rumors.  To read more about his projection model, check out this series of posts.


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