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Indians optimistic with four arb-eligible players

Indians optimistic with four arb-eligible players

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Indians optimistic with four arb-eligible players
CLEVELAND -- It has been two decades since the Indians last went to an arbitration hearing with one of their players. There is no reason to think that streak will end with Cleveland's four eligible players this offseason.

Beginning on Wednesday and ending on Jan. 15, players can file for arbitration with their resepctive clubs. For the Tribe, that means outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and relievers Chris Perez and Rafael Perez are set to turn in the appropriate paperwork.

Indians general manager Chris Antonetti is not one for giving updates on any negotiation process, but all signs point to reaching an agreement with each player before the arbitration hearings begin in February.

"With negotiations that are ongoing," Antonetti said recently, "I'd prefer not to get into detailed status of those. It's something we're working on."

Cleveland has not gone to a hearing since 1991, when the club did so with second baseman Jerry Browne and pitcher Greg Swindell. In their resepctive cases, Browne lost and Swindell won. Both players suited up for different teams the next season.

The most intriguing storyline within this offseason's arbitration class is not whether Cleveland will keep its streak alive, but whether the team will be able to reach a long-term agreement with Choo. Eligible for arbitration for the first time, Choo is a player the Tribe hopes to lock up before he can become a free agent after the 2013 season.

While Antonetti has said that talks of an extension will likely be a natural part of the arbitration talks, the chances of inking an extension with Choo seem unlikely this winter. During the Winter Meetings in December, Choo's agent, Scott Boras, painted a bleak picture when asked about the chances of a long-term deal.

"That's something that I'm sure Chris and I will sit down and chat about," Boras said at the time. "Again, the dynamics of it are one where that's going to be Shin-Soo's decision about what he may want to do or not do.

"I do think it's tougher -- it's always tougher -- in situations where you're a club that's a developmental team, to know where the club's going to be two or three years from now. So those situations are always a little more difficult.

"But, again, we listen to every team and pass it on to the player and see what he says."

Last season, Choo hit .300 with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs in 144 games. He added 31 doubles, 81 runs scored and 22 stolen bases to go along with a .401 on-base percentage. Choo became the first Indians player since 1901 to have at least a .300 average, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in consecutive seasons.

Last month, the 28-year-old Choo helped guide South Korea to a gold medal in the Asian Games by hitting .571 with three homers and 11 RBIs in five games. That victory earned Choo an exemption from his country's two-year military service requirement.

Through arbitration, Choo could see his salary rise to somewhere around the $3 million to $4 million range in 2011 after earning $461,100 last season.

Cabrera and Chris Perez will also be eligible for arbitration for the first time. Rafael Perez is entering his second year of arbitration after settling on a $795,000 contract last season. The Indians have already avoided arbitration with relievers Jensen Lewis (he'll earn $650,000 in 2011) and Joe Smith ($870,000 plus incentives).

Following the arbitration filing period, teams and their eligible players are scheduled to exchange salary figures on Jan. 18. If necessary, the arbitration hearings will be held from Feb. 1-21. Some teams set internal deadlines for reaching an agreement prior to the hearings, but Antonetti said the Indians do not have that type of policy.

"We look at each negotiation individually and handle each one separately," Antonetti said. "We do not have a blanket policy. There have been times in the past where the dymanic of the negotiation has been such where we set those type of parameters, but it's on a case-by-case basis."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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