Cleveland Indians: Starting Rotation Cost Low After Bauer’s New Deal

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The Cleveland Indians avoided arbitration with Trevor Bauer, signing him to a modest deal and keeping the overall cost of the starting rotation low.

The Cleveland Indians started what is expected to be a series of arbitration-avoiding contract agreements with the agreement of a one-year, $3.55 million contract with starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, as originally reported by Jon Heyman.

Bauer’s contract will be a pay raise for him. In 2015, Bauer earned just under $1.7 million. Bauer is arbitration-eligible for the next three seasons.

After starting the 2016 season in the bullpen after losing a spring training battle with fellow starters Cody Anderson and Josh Tomlin, Bauer found himself back in a starting role by the end of April. His 2016 season was not remarkable, but on par with his previous numbers.

With a record of 12-8 and an ERA of 4.26, Bauer translates as a back-end starter. With the trio of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar at the top of the rotation, it will likely be up to Tomlin and Bauer to round out the bottom. Mike Clevinger could also be given consideration for one of those two spots.

Bauer ended his 2016 season with a career high in WAR at 2.7. His ground ball percentage (48.7 percent) and BB/9 (3.32) were career bests.

Since teams, on average, dish out about $7 million per WAR, the Indians settled with Bauer for a bargain price. If this average held true with Bauer, he would be due approximately $18.9 million.

In reality, Bauer is not worth that money at this point in his career. He still has the potential to get there, but it is highly unlikely the Indians would ever pay him that sum of money.

Now that Bauer’s contract is settled for 2017, the Indians’ starting rotation’s payroll will look like this, with just Salazar’s potential arbitration hearing to come:

Corey Kluber – $7.7 million

Carlos Carrasco – $6.5 million

Danny Salazar – Arbitration (mlbtraderumors.com projects $3.8 million)

Josh Tomlin – $2.5 million

Trevor Bauer – $3.55 million

With a projected (depending on Salazar) payroll of $24.05 million for the Indians starting rotation in 2017, the Indians will have the lowest paid rotation in the AL Central division. This figure stands true even though some teams do not have five definite starters yet.

The Tribe’s starting rotation accrued 13.8 WAR last season, which ranked second in the AL and first in the AL Central. The Detroit Tigers were ranked 12th in MLB with 12.5 WAR, but will likely be spending north of $70 million on their starting rotation.

Next: Getting Used to the Great Expectations

The Indians will look to avoid salary arbitration with Salazar by signing him in the coming days.

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