Four Cleveland Indians players swiftly resolved any potential arbitration disputes on Friday, including the face of the franchise.
Friday was a productive day for the Cleveland Indians, as they reached salary agreements with four arbitration-eligible players. The most notable of them is Francisco Lindor, who will be paid $17.5 million in 2020.
Avoiding a drawn-out arbitration process with Lindor is certainly a step in the right direction after an offseason in which his name became synonymous with the word “trade.” Lindor’s price tag comes in slightly north of the MLB Trade Rumors projected value of $16.7 million; perhaps the Indians saw fit to appease their star player in an effort to keep the relationship running smoothly.
It’s still wildly unlikely this show of good faith earns the Tribe any leverage in a potential long-term negotiation, but at least the two sides will avoid the type of short-term salary dispute that would surely continue to draw the attention of the national media in the most negative way possible.
The lone remaining player who has yet to accept a deal or enter the hearing process is Mike Clevinger, whose projected 2020 earnings will be in the neighborhood of $4.5 million, per MLBTR. Considering how quickly Cleveland was able to reach agreements with its other four, there is cause for optimism that a Clevinger deal is not far off. (Could the relative delay be due to a potential extension negotiation?)
Now that these contracts have officially been ironed out, it will be interesting to see how the Indians choose to navigate the rest of the offseason with (almost) all in-house players having been accounted for. Cleveland now has concrete numbers in place for its 2020 payroll, which should allow the Tribe to take stock of how many resources remain available to address other parts of the roster.
The outfield market has thinned in reverse, with lower-profile players reaching agreements while the big names continue to be there for the taking. Could the Indians take the baseball world by surprise and set their sights on Nicholas Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna? Is a Yasiel Puig reunion in the cards?
If Cleveland has just been slow-playing the market with the hope of landing quality players on bargain deals late in the offseason, the arbitration deadline was the last thing standing in its way. With no more financial crossroads between now and Spring Training, here’s hoping the Indians pivot to an aggressive approach to strengthening their roster before pitchers and catchers report.