The Glorious Tradition of Avoiding Arbitration Like the Plague Continues

If you’re new, I’m going to make this real simple for you.

The Cleveland Indians HATE arbitration.

No, seriously. After signing OF Shin-Soo Choo, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, and relievers Chris Perez and Rafael Perez to one year deals between yesterday and today, the Indians have successfully avoided arbitration since 1991 (Jerry Browne and Greg Swindell).

Choo ($3.975 million), C. Perez ($2.25 million), Cabrera ($2.025 million) and R. Perez ($1.33 million) join relievers Jensen Lewis ($650,000) and Joe Smith ($870,000, plus incentives) as the Indians’ arbitration-eligible players, and Lewis and Smith signed earlier this offseason.

Now that everybody’s signed, the payroll picture becomes a lot clearer for 2011. Barring someone restructuring their contract or signing a multi-year deal (No, I haven’t given up the ghost yet on Choo…) the Indians payroll will be between $46-47 million. According to Anthony Castrovince, only the Padres ($37.8 million) and the Pirates ($34.9 million) had lower payrolls last year.

(Cue the angry townspeople leading a torch-lit mob to Larry Dolan’s house.)

Really, I’m OK with the low payroll. I’d rather have a payroll of cheap garbage than high-priced garbage. And to be honest, if some of these players pan out the way the Tribe is banking, then it’s not going to be cheap for too much longer. It’s no secret the Indians desperately want Choo on a multi-year deal, both to have him under team control and to keep his salary under control. The Indians probably would also like to do short-term multi-year deals with Chris Perez and Cabrera for cost reasons as well, although neither of those are as pressing. But with players who the Indians hope to be part of the team’s core gaining service time (Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, Justin Masterson and to a lesser extent, Carlos Santana, for example), their salaries are also going to see a bump soon. It’s nothing to panic about, as the Indians have a few years with pretty much all of their players, but the clock is ticking on these players.

Still, arbitration sucks and I’m glad the Indians avoided that B.S. Arbitration gets ugly, it gets expensive, and y’know what? Good for the Indians for giving the system the finger for 19 straight years.

As for the rest of the offseason, again, barring a multi-year extension or a crazy trade that falls into the Indians’ lap, the Indians will probably only hand out a few nondescript minor league deals, and they may even be done with that (the Tribe’s interest in Bartolo Colon has cooled considerably and the team seems strangely content to go into the season with Jayson Nix as the third baseman).

So meet the 2011 Cleveland Indians. Sorry it looks pretty much exactly like the 2010 Cleveland Indians. Let’s hope the results are better this year.

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera Bartolo Colon Carlos Santana Chris Perez Jayson Nix Jensen Lewis Joe Smith Justin Masterson Matt LaPorta Michael Brantley Rafael Perez Shin Soo Choo

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