Indians non-tender reliever Manship

Tribe offers contracts to eight other arbitration-eligible players

Indians non-tender reliever Manship

CLEVELAND -- The bullpen was a strength for the Indians down the stretch last season and a force throughout the postseason. With most of the group returning, that aspect of Cleveland's roster should be formidable once again next year, but the cost of the club's relief corps is rising.

That combination of depth and price led to Friday's decision not to tender a contract to reliever Jeff Manship, who now joins this offseason's free-agent pool. The Indians did offer one-year pacts to their other arbitration-eligible relievers: closer Cody Allen, setup man Bryan Shaw, and right-handers Dan Otero and Zach McAllister.

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Cleveland also tendered contracts to starters Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar, as well as outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer. Unless a deal takes place, the two sides will exchange proposed salary figures in January, and arbitration hearings, if necessary, will be held in February. Teams can avoid arbitration with a contract at any point leading up to a player's scheduled hearing.

According to projections by MLBTradeRumors.com, the Tribe's eight arbitration-eligible combined could earn an estimated $28.7 million for 2017. The bulk of that money will flow to Cleveland's relievers. Allen projects to earn over $7 million, Shaw could net more than $4 million, while McAllister and Otero each project to earn north of $1 million for next season.

When taking into account that relief ace Andrew Miller is scheduled to earn $9 million next year (and again in 2018), Cleveland's bullpen could be under contract for more than $25 million in '17. That projection includes Miller, Allen, Shaw, Otero and McAllister, plus two or three additional arms. The current crop of internal candidates includes Austin Adams, Shawn Armstrong, Joseph Colon, Tim Cooney, Kyle Crockett, Edwin Escobar and Perci Garner.

The expectation is that the Indians will continue to monitor the relief market for reinforcements, especially left-handers.

Indians aim to supplement talented nucleus

Manship, who will turn 32 in January, played a meaningful role for Cleveland in 2015 after being signed to a Minor League contract before the season. The righty posted a pristine 0.92 ERA in 32 appearances for the Indians, earning a spot in the '16 bullpen. This past season, Manship had a 3.12 ERA in 53 games, but his opponents' OPS rose from .440 in '15 to .750 in '16. In the second half, Manship was used mostly against right-handed batters.

Through arbitration, Manship was projected to earn $1.2 million, which is not much in the big picture, but freeing up that salary gives Cleveland a touch more wiggle room. Before any additions, the Tribe's 2017 payroll projects to be over $100 million, leaving little flexibility for the team to make external moves.

Over the course of the second half, Manship saw his role diminish as Indians manager Terry Francona's main five relievers became Miller, Allen, Shaw, Otero and McAllister. After Miller was acquired via trade from the Yankees before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, those five arms combined for a 1.76 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and .522 opponents' OPS over the final two months.

During that final two-month span, Cleveland's bullpen led the Majors in WHIP (1.17), baserunner per nine innings (10.6) and opponents' on-base percentage (.290), and it led the American League in opponents' average (.224) and FIP (3.30). The Indians' relief corps ranked second in the AL in that time period in opponents' OPS (.656) and strikeouts (226), and third in ERA (3.31) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.18).

Coming off arguably the best season of his career, Bauer projects to earn $3.7 million through arbitration. Salazar, who made the All-Star team in an injury-marred campaign, could earn around the same in his first year of arbitration eligibility. Both pitchers are in the plans for Cleveland's starting rotation, which also includes Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin.

As the roster is currently constituted, Chisenhall and Guyer could be platoon partners in right field next season. Chisenhall, who mostly played against right-handed pitching, projects to earn $4.1 million through arbitration. Guyer -- acquired from the Rays at the non-waiver Trade Deadline for his ability to hit lefty pitching -- could make around $2 million in arbitration.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.