The streak stays alive – the Indians were able to strike a deal with Mike Aviles today, their last remaining unsigned arbitration-eligible player. The Indians have not gone to arbitration with a player since 1991, always negotiating a deal before a situation reached that point. Over the last couple years, the Tribe typically handles arbitration-eligible players on a year-by-year basis, inking a one-year deal and repeating the process the next winter. There are a few exceptions though and Aviles, like Asdrubal Cabrera last winter, was signed on a multi-year (albeit short term) deal. The Indians gave him a two year contract worth $6 million, with a club option for 2015. The annual figure of $3 million is roughly in the middle of the numbers the Indians and Aviles originally exchanged – Aviles asked for $3.4 million and the Indians countered with $2.4 million. These multi-year deals can benefit a team in the sense that they don’t have to worry about a player receiving a substantial raise next winter; it helps them budget their resources. There may be a few other reasons as to why the Indians would like Aviles to stick around for a couple of years.
As Jordan Bastian of MLB.com pointed out on Twitter earlier today, there are many folks around baseball that think the Indians will trade Asdrubal Cabrera by next winter. It’s unclear whether or not they thought this before Aviles signed his two-year deal, or if they’re using that transaction as the basis for their assumption. Cabrera is signed through 2014, but was mentioned in numerous trade rumors this winter. With Francisco Lindor waiting in the wings, I don’t think anyone would be surprised to see Cabrera on the trading block once again. If Cabrera is traded, Aviles could hold down the fort until Lindor is ready to claim the position. Even if Cabrera sticks around for a while, Aviles is a pretty versatile player that could step into several infield positions if necessary.
Minor League Deal
The Indians also signed LHP Rich Hill to a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Hill has spent time with the Cubs, Orioles, and Red Sox; he spent the past three seasons in Boston. He put up decent numbers during his time with the Red Sox, but saw his innings limited by reconstructive elbow surgery in 2011. In 19.2 innings pitched in 2012, Hill went 1-0 with a 1.83 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and 21 strikeouts.
Michael Bourn update
The Indians remain a long shot to sign Bourn, but there have been a few conflicting updates on his situation with the Mets. Jim Bowden of ESPN reported earlier that a “league source” said if the Mets were able to sign Bourn, MLB would help them retain their 11th overall pick in the draft. However, Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes the exact opposite – that MLB would not help the Mets retain their first round pick. The primary reasons for this would be the fact that MLB doesn’t want to set a precedent, plus Bud Selig would not want it to look like he was once again favoring his friend, Mets owner Fred Wilpon. There’s also the fact that the commissioner’s office does not want to go out of their way to aid Scott Boras. It’s unclear whether or not the Mets would aggressively court Bourn before this situation has a firm resolution. Since they are adamant about keeping their first round pick, I would have to think they’d want some kind of assurance from the commissioner’s office before they attempted to finalize things with Bourn.