Where were you…
… the last time the Indians went to an arbitration hearing?
I was 8 years old, growing up in Chicago and rooting on the Bulls as they pushed their way to their first NBA title. Hey, um, sorry about “The Shot,” by the way.
(True story tangent: My mom bought me a shirt that said “Air Jordan” when I was a little kid. She seriously thought it was an airline. Had no idea there was some basketball superstar with my name. God Bless her.)
The last time the Indians went to an arbitration hearing was 1991. Second baseman Jerry Browne wanted $1.1 million and pitcher Greg Swindell wanted $2.025 million. The sides did not budge. Arbitration hearings were required. Browne lost. Swindell won.
I’m bringing this up because tomorrow (Jan. 5) is the first day players can officially file for arbitration. Cleveland has four players — Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and the Pitchers Perez — who fall into that category. Players file between Wednesday and Jan. 15, salary figures are due to be exchanged on Jan. 18 and the hearings, if necessary, run from Feb. 1-21.
When I covered the Blue Jays last winter, GM Alex Anthopoulos had a policy of setting an internal deadline for negotiations. In short, if he did not avoid arbitration by settling on a contract prior to the exchange date, then he would go to a hearing with the player in question. Anthopoulos believed it was an effective tool for getting talks done fast, wasting no one’s time. Either agree to a deal or we’re done talking and it’ll be settled at a hearing.
I asked Indians GM Chris Antonetti if he might use a similar policy and he said it was not something the Tribe did — not as a blanket policy anyway. Antonetti said each contract would be considered on a case-to-base basis and if an internal deadline was required, they’d implement one. Behind-the-scenes tactics aside, expect the Indians to settle with all four of their eligible players.
I’d expect Choo to reach a deal somewhere between $3 million or $4 million in his first year of eligibility. I find it hard to believe that the Tribe will sign him to a long-term contract this winter. I could be wrong, but Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, did not seem too optimistic about the possibility of agreeing to an extension this winter when he addressed the issue at the Winter Meetings.
Chris Perez is eligible for the first time due to reaching Super 2 status and Cabrera is also a first-time arbitration candidate. Rafael Perez is in his second go-round after settling on a $795K contract for last season. The Indians already avoided arbitration with Jensen Lewis ($650K for 2011) and Joe Smith ($870K plus incentives for ’11).
Last, Go Buckeyes! That actually was painful to type for me, but after the New Years Day showing by the Big 10, I’m willing to put our differences aside and root for THE Ohio State University. Just this once.