Indians avoid arbitration with Bauer, Otero

Indians avoid arbitration with Bauer, Otero

CLEVELAND -- The Indians prefer not to head to arbitration with their players, and the team started chipping away at its pile of cases on Thursday. The first arbitration cases avoided were right-hander Trevor Bauer and reliever Dan Otero, who agreed to one-year contracts for the upcoming season.

MLB.com confirmed Bauer and the Indians settled at $3.55 million, while Otero signed for $1.055 million. Both contracts were first reported by MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman. The club has not commented on the reports.

Cleveland has six remaining arbitration-eligible players, but the team is optimistic it will be able to reach agreements with most of them ahead of Friday's deadline for exchanging proposed salary figures.

The Indians' other eligible players include closer Cody Allen, setup man Bryan Shaw, starter Danny Salazar, outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer and reliever Zach McAllister. Based on past arbitration cases and other factors, MLBTradeRumors.com projects those six players to earn an estimated $23.8 million, with Allen projected to net the highest salary ($7.7 million).

After exchanging salary figures on Friday, teams can still reach an agreement on a contract at any point leading up to a player's scheduled hearing. This year, arbitration hearings are slated to take place between Jan. 30-Feb. 17. If a case goes to a hearing, a three-person panel will listen to arguments from both sides, and then choose either the salary presented by the team or player.

Among the remaining cases, Allen and Salazar could be candidates for contract extensions.

Bauer, who will turn 26 on Tuesday, logged career bests in games (35), innings (190) and wins (12) last season for the American League-champion Indians. Bauer posted a 4.26 ERA with 168 strikeouts and 70 walks along the way. In the postseason, a laceration to Bauer's right pinkie finger -- sustained in an accident while repairing one of his personal drones -- contributed to the pitcher being limited to 13 2/3 innings (5.27 ERA).

Bauer is expected to be in the Opening Day rotation for Cleveland, along with Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Salazar. As a group, Cleveland's rotation projects to be under contract for around $24 million combined for the 2017 campaign. Last year, the Indians' rotation dealt with a series of injuries, but managed a 13.8 WAR (per FanGraphs), which was tied for the second-highest mark in the AL.

Otero works out of trouble

Otero, who was acquired from the Phillies via trade last offseason, enjoyed a strong showing as manager Terry Francona's "wild card" out of the bullpen last year. The 31-year-old right-hander turned in a 1.53 ERA in 62 appearances, compiling 57 strikeouts against 10 walks in 70 2/3 innings. Only Baltimore's Zach Britton (0.54 ERA) and Andrew Miller (1.45) had a lower ERA than Otero among Major League relievers last year.

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.