The Indians are next in MLBTR’s 2013 Contract Issues series:
Eligible For Free Agency (5)
- Derek Lowe - The 38-year-old has added value for the Indians by keeping the ball on the ground. But he's striking out just 2.3 batters per nine innings, which could scare some potentially interested teams this offseason.
- Grady Sizemore - Sizemore, now on the 60-day disabled list, in on track to miss more games than he plays in for the third consecutive season. If he returns to Cleveland for 2013, it's hard to imagine another $5MM guarantee. Perhaps an incentive-based minor league deal would work if there's interest on both sides.
- Casey Kotchman - The Indians could use more offense at first base; the Twins are the lone AL team getting a lower OPS from their first basemen.
- Johnny Damon - There's definitely a chance Damon will lose his roster spot before the offseason if the hits don't start falling in.
- Jose Lopez - Lopez has been hitting since having his contract purchsed from the minor leagues. He won't obtain a qualifying offer this offseason, nor will any of his teammates.
Contract Options (3)
- Travis Hafner: $13MM club option with a $2.75MM buyout. Hafner is drawing walks and hitting for some power, so he's a useful designated hitter. But $13MM from a small-market team for a 35-year-old whose prime years are behind him? I expect the Indians to decline the option.
- Ubaldo Jimenez: $5.75MM club option with a $1MM buyout. Jimenez's ERA is over 5.00 in 20 starts with the Indians and he's walking more batters than he's striking out this year. The Indians could decline the option if he doesn't resolve his control issues, even though it would mean giving up on a pitcher who was supposed to lead the rotation for years.
- Roberto Hernandez: $9MM club option. Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, hasn't thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues this year. Issues surrounding his age and identity have sidelined him, so it'd be a surprise if the Indians made him a $9MM commitment this offseason.
Arbitration Eligible (12)
- First time: Tony Sipp, Shelley Duncan, Lou Marson, Matt LaPorta
- Second time: Chris Perez, Justin Masterson, Jack Hannahan
- Third time: Shin-Soo Choo, Kevin Slowey, Joe Smith, Jeremy Accardo
- Fourth time: Rafael Perez
The Indians face a large and potentially expensive arbitration class. Perez and Masterson could each earn $6MM or more their second times through arbitration. Choo would earn even more if his power returns. LaPorta's playing at Triple-A and there's no guarantee he will accrue enough service time to qualify for arbitration by next winter. Duncan, Accardo and Slowey could all be considered non-tender candidates.
2013 Payroll Obligation
The Indians have committed $11MM to next year's team, which is less than every team we've looked at except the Padres (they're also at $11MM). If Cleveland's ownership matches the 2012 payroll of $65MM, GM Chris Antonetti will have flexibility to sign, trade for and extend players next winter.