CLEVELAND -- When Lonnie Chisenhall was back in the Minor Leagues in July, it was fair to wonder what the future held for him with the Indians. His status as an arbitration-eligible player this winter made it possible that Cleveland would consider cutting ties with the former third baseman.
Things changed dramatically when Chisenhall offered to try his hand in right field -- a decision that altered his career and breathed life into his place on the Indians' roster. On Tuesday, Chisenhall joined closer Cody Allen, setup man Bryan Shaw, reliever Jeff Manship and starter Josh Tomlin in filing for salary arbitration with Cleveland.
"I'm not sure any of us could have expected him to go out and be as good as he was right out of the gate," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said of Chisenhall's move to right field. "We recognize how difficult position changes are. But to his credit, he really worked out there. ... He worked at it and took a lot of pride on it."
Arbitration-eligible players and their teams must exchange 2016 salary figures on Friday. If necessary, arbitration hearings will be held from Feb. 1-21, though a deal can be reached at any point leading up to a player's scheduled hearing.
The Tribe avoided arbitration with Shaw, agreeing to a one-year deal on Thursday. The 28-year-old Shaw, who earned $1.55 million through arbitration last season, had a 2.95 ERA in 74 appearances in 2015, following his 80-game showing in '14. In three seasons with the Indians, the right-hander has logged a 2.93 ERA in 215 1/3 innings, spanning 224 outings.
Chisenhall, who projects to be the Tribe's Opening Day right fielder, led American League players at the position with 11 Defensive Runs Saved in only 354 1/3 innings. Among all Major Leaguers with at least 300 innings in right field, he was tied for fourth in Defensive Runs Saved and ranked first in UZR/150 (35.3). That is the kind of defense that can result in Gold Glove Awards.
After returning from Triple-A Columbus on July 30, Chisenhall also saw improvement in the batter's box. His batting average stood at .209 when he was sent back down to the Minors, but he hit at a .288 (.756 OPS) clip after rejoining the fold as a right fielder. Overall, Chisenhall hit .246 with a .667 OPS in 106 games for the Indians, making his case an intriguing one for the club.
MLBTradeRumors.com projects that Chisenhall could command around $3 million in arbitration after earning $2.25 million last year.
Allen, 27, is eligible for arbitration for the first time after a 2015 season that saw him lead all Major League relievers with a 2.6 WAR, according to FanGraphs.com. Right behind Allen were standout relievers Aroldis Chapman (2.5) and Dellin Betances (2.4). The right-hander had 34 saves, a 2.99 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings last year, and he has logged at least 70 games with a 2.49 ERA in the past three years combined.
While MLBTradeRumors.com forecasts that Allen will net around $3.5 million for '16, the closer said at the end of the year that he is open to discussing a multi-year extension with the Indians.
"I would absolutely love to," Allen said. "I think anybody in this clubhouse would love to. We have a great staff here, a great group of guys and the city of Cleveland has treated me very well. I would love to play here for a very, very long time. If that opportunity presents itself, I'd definitely be open to it."
General manager Mike Chernoff addressed that scenario at the end of the season.
"I couldn't comment on Cody in particular," Chernoff said. "With relievers it can be more challenging. You just don't see those contracts out there quite as much in the industry. It's a little bit easier to project out a starting pitcher's role moving forward or a position player's role moving forward. That's harder to do in the bullpen. I think that volatility often leads to the challenge of both sides meeting on what a potential value could be."
Manship is eligible for arbitration following a breakout showing in his first year with the Indians. The right-hander had a 6.46 ERA in parts of six seasons prior to joining Cleveland on a Minor League deal last winter, but he then fashioned a 0.92 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP in 39 1/3 innings out of the Tribe's bullpen. Among all Major League relievers with at least 30 innings, Manship led the way in ERA. Manship could earn around $700,000, according to MLBTradeRumors.com.
Tomlin, who earned a $1.5 million salary in arbitration last year, is coming off a 10-start showing in which he went 7-2 with a 3.02 ERA for the Indians. The 31-year-old returned from right shoulder surgery last summer and also missed time in 2012-13 due to Tommy John surgery. Tomlin, who is Cleveland's longest-tenured player, has gone 36-30 with a 4.65 ERA in 95 career games. MLBTradeRumors.com projects him to earn around $3.1 million.