The Indians came to terms with five players today to avoid salary arbitration as they are wont to do. They are as follows:
Shin Soo-Choo - $4.9 million
This is the most important signing as Choo is guaranteed to be the starting right fielder next season. While the rest of the outfield is in flux, Choo remains the cornerstone that the rest will be built around. The Indians may have lucked out as his subpar 2011 undoubtedly hurt his market value. If Choo has a 2012 season any where near his career average season, he will be an absolute steal at just one million more than his last season's salary. Choo has one more year of arbitration before he can become a free agent.
Justin Masterson - $3.825 million
Masterson quickly became the Indians ace last season and looks to return to that position in 2012. Signing him for the upcoming season was of the utmost importance for the Tribe. This is just Masterson's first year of arbitration so he should be in an Indians uniform through 2014 if the Indians are smart.
Joe Smith - $1.75 million
This is another great deal as Joe Smith was practically unhittable during most of 2011. A good bullpen is extremely important to a championship level team, and a good bullpen is more than a shutdown closer. Keeping Joe Smith around along with Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp and Vinnie Pestano should keep the back of the pen strong. Smith has one more season of arbitration.
Chris Perez - $4.5 million
The Indians closer will be around for another season as he agreed to avoid his second year of arbitration. The object of quite a few trade rumors this offseason, the Indians made the best move they could by keeping him around for 2012. Perez is arguably the most important member of the "Bullpen Mafia" and is well on his way to becoming one of the best Indians closers ever.
Jack Hannahan - $1.35 million
This is the least obvious of the Indians moves today. The Indians have already announced that there will be an open competition for the starting third base job between Jack Hannahan and Lonnie Chisenhall during Spring Training. If Chisenhall does win the spot, as he should, then Hannahan may end up being a very expensive utility player who can only play two positions. The two positions he can play are already stacked with plenty of players who are better offensively than he does. It may be worth it to keep him around as a back up, but he will probably end up costing twice as much as an equivalent replacement player would while being able to play half the positions.