Well, the Indians and Asdrubal Cabrera have avoided arbitration and agreed to a one-year deal worth $4.55 million for the 2012 season. Cabrera had originally asked for $5.2 million; the Indians originally offered $3.75 million, so they settled right in the middle.

But only for one year.

The signing means that the Indians haven’t had a player go to arbitration for more than 20 years. I’d rather have them break their no-arbitration record than sign a one-year deal with a guy who should be one of our core players going forward. The Indians have signed a bunch of one-year contracts this off season. The Cabrera contract was the one I felt certain had to be multi-year. Many of the other one-year contracts make sense if you’re planning on hedging your bets. It seems like the Tribe is doing a lot bet hedging. Let’s look at some of the one-year contracts they’ve signed for 2012:

Grady Sizemore: A one-year contract for $5 million plus up to $4 million in incentives based on plate appearances. Although I think the base contract is overly generous, the incentives make sense. If Sizemore implodes or (God forbid) gets injured again, the Indians are only on the hook for the base salary.

Justin Masterson: Masterson was the workhorse of the starting rotation last season. He ended up with a 12-10 record, but had several great outings during 2011 where he got no run support. (1 game where he gave up zero runs and we lost; 3 games in which he gave up 1 run and we lost; and two games where he gave up 2 runs and we lost). When any of us talk about the 2012 starting rotation, he’s the first or second name we say, right? Masterson is arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. The $468,400 he earned in 2011 was a bargain; he’ll get $3.825 million in 2012. I’d rather we had signed him to something a bit longer term.

Shin-Soo Choo: One of the best right fielders in the game, certainly the best in the division. Downsides, he’s 29, has had injury and off-the-field problems. $3.975 million in 2011 and $4.9 million in 2012. Arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent at the end of the 2013 season. The bet is being hedged.

Jack Hannahan: My brother used to keep piranhas, and once in a while he’d ask if he could keep the feeder goldfish in my tank until he needed them to feed to the piranhas. I kind of feel like a one-year for Hannahan (whom (I really like) is keeping him in a holding tank until Lonnie Chisenhall is ready to be the everyday 3rd baseman.

Chris Perez: 36 saves in 2011 (4th best in the AL). He made $2.25 million in 2011 and will earn $4.5 million in 2012. Not invincible, but dang, you want to keep the guy around. Arbitration eligible in 2013 and free agent at the end of the end of the 2014 season. A longer-term contract would have been nice.

Joe Smith: 2.01 ERA, 2.1 WAR. A bargain at $870,000 in 2011. He’ll earn $1.75 million in 2012. Arbitration eligible in 2013 and a free agent at the end of 2013. He’s only 27. If he has another good season, maybe they’ll lock him up for a couple years at the end of 2012.

Rafael Perez: 3.00 ERA. $1.33 million in 2011 and $2.98 million in 2012. I wasn’t entirely sold on Raffie last season, but he did his part in a very deep bullpen. I’m not honestly not sure how I feel about him. Guess the Indians aren’t either.


  • Will McIlroy says:

    I think the Indians are not yet sure about which Cabrera they have– the aggressive and productive 2011 variety or not in shape 2010 model– especially after he did not play particularly well in winter ball.

    Much may hinge on Spring Training perceptions about his motivation and conditioning. If they look good, there is probably a decent chance the Tribe revisits a multi-year year deal.

    Mention has already been made (by conspiracy theorists) the club is cleaning the books after 2013 (ie, no guaranteed contracts) for a sale by the Dolans. This sounds interesting but wouldn’t a new owner understand there will be a certain payroll and want to have core players like Cabrera and Masterson locked up to provide continuity and marketing? Other views?

  • Susan Petrone says:

    There’s talk that they may try to work out a multi-year deal during Spring Training. Perhaps this one-year contract is a stopgap measure simply to avoid arbitration.

    Interesting thought about the Dolans possibly cleaning house to prepare for a sale. It’s been my pleasure to meet the Dolans a couple of times, and they’re incredibly nice people who genuinely seem to love the game and the team and the city. However, they’re also up in age. Their son Paul is Chairman/CEO, so clearly they’ve given succession some serious thought. And I agree–you’d think a new owner would want some player continuity. Eh, it’s their team, so anything we say is speculation.

  • Joey Biz says:

    I bet these 1yr deals are hurting jersey sales.

  • Susan Petrone says:

    heh heh heh…

  • medfest says:

    It takes two people to sign a contract,if I’m advising most of these guys I’m not letting the Indian’s buy out any free agent years with a multi-year deal.

    As far as the Dolans getting prepared to sell the team,who would buy a club who can only draw 2.2 million fans for seasons where they do win 90 games?

  • Will McIlroy says:

    Owning a sports franchise is not always a rational endeavor. How often do we see successful business people, shrewd and cutthroat in their field, turn to blithering idiots when they get the keys to a franchise?

    Apparently normal rules do not apply and it becomes an ego/status point and tax writeoff. Which means Gilbert could be perfect.

    Not sure I buy the conspiracy/sale theory but it presents an interesting coincidence. Failure to lock up Masterson, Cabrera, C. Perez and maybe Joe Smith would be a dangerous gamble. Choo is gone (free agency) and R. Perez may be as well (traded midseason) if Hagadone proves he’s ready.