The Cleveland Indians avoided arbitration with six players by signing closer Chris Perez, starter Justin Masterson, outfielder Drew Stubbs, catcher Lou Marson and relievers Joe Smith and Matt Albers to one year deals. The only remaining unsigned arbitration-eligible player is infielder Mike Aviles.
The most expensive signing was Perez at $7.3 million. The Indians are paying below market prices compared to players like Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon and Rafael Soriano. I’m surprised the Indians have not tried to trade Perez after a number of controversies sparked by comments in the media and actions on the field. I think the Indians front office want to give Perez a fresh start with Terry Francona and hope that he continues to play at a 0.5 to 0.8 WAR level which is good for a 60 innings per year pitcher.
The most important signing is Masterson, who the Indians hope will be the ace of the staff after an up and down 2012. The downside of Masterson is about an average starter or around 2 to 2.5 WAR, where his salary of about $5.7 million is around market value. If Masterson can become a top of the rotation starter then this deal is a bargain and he will get a significant raise after 2013.
Stubbs will receive about $2.9 million with performance bonuses. If he continues to play an excellent center field and provides anything above replacement level with his bat he will be worth more than this contract.
Marson is more important to the Indians as a backup than most teams because the Indians try to limit Carlos Santana’s innings at catcher so he can play throughout the season. This is a make or break season for Marson as he needs to continue to get on base but also needs to improve his defense which slumped in 2012. I have no issues with Marson being paid $1 million this year just because it is likely he will play 60 to 70 games again.
Joe Smith uses a side-arm motion out of the bullpen and has had two good seasons in a row. He’s known for being very effective against right handed hitters but was good enough against lefties in 2012 that he was able to pitch a full inning at a time instead of being a one-batter pitcher. Smith is getting paid $3.15 million this year and will need to continue at his current level of production to be worth it.
Matt Albers was acquired in the Shin-Soo Choo trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was signed to a one year contract for $1.75 million. At the moment he will team with Bryan Shaw among others to fill the 6th and 7th inning roles in the bullpen but could move up the depth chart if Perez is traded.
Overall I’m happy with the Perez and Masterson signings and I am fine with the others. The Tribe’s payroll is set except for Aviles for this year and should be between $65 and $70 million which is about all the owners would be willing to afford if the Indians are going to finish near the bottom of the league in attendance again.