Blake, Tribe avoid arbitration

Blake, Tribe avoid arbitration

CLEVELAND -- From changing positions to changing spots in the lineup, Casey Blake has done everything the Indians have asked the last few years.

This winter, Blake asked for a substantial raise, which is par for the course in the arbitration process. And after a little bit of back and forth between the two sides, an arbitration hearing was avoided on Friday when Blake and the Indians came to agreement on a one-year, $6.1 million contract for the third baseman.

Blake, who made $3.75 million in 2007, had been asking for $6.9 million, while the Indians had countered with an offer of $5.4 million. The two sides compromised near the midpoint.

By signing Blake, who fell mere days shy of free-agent eligibility, the Indians maintained their streak of avoiding arbitration hearings with their players. That streak dates back to 1991, when Greg Swindell and Jerry Browne had their contracts decided by an impartial judge.

Blake, 34, will enter the '08 season as the Indians' everyday third baseman -- the role he took over when youngster Andy Marte injured his hamstring in April of last season.

Up until that point, Blake had been splitting time between first base and right field. In '05 and '06, he was the regular in right field. And in '03 and '04, he was the third baseman.

In five seasons with the Tribe, Blake has compiled a .263 average with 107 homers and 366 RBIs in 763 games. Last year, he batted .270 with 18 homers and 78 RBIs, putting together a 26-game hitting streak that was the longest in the Majors for the season. His memorable walk-off home run on Sept. 17 against the Tigers all but sealed the American League Central crown for the Indians.

"He's been an absolute warrior for us," general manager Mark Shapiro recently said of Blake. "He's a tremendous athlete. He's one of the hardest workers and the most selfless players on our Major League team. In so many ways, he embodies what this team is all about."

That being said, the Indians still believe that the 24-year-old Marte -- the key acquisition in the 2006 trade that sent Coco Crisp to the Red Sox -- can one day emerge as their everyday third baseman, which explains the one-year deal for Blake, rather than a more long-term commitment.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.