Indians ink Choo, both Perez relievers for '11

Indians ink Choo, both Perez relievers for '11

CLEVELAND -- Another year, another set of arbitration cases settled. On Tuesday, the Indians put the finishing touches on contracts for each of their remaining arbitration-eligible players, keeping the club's streak of avoiding the hearings alive.

Cleveland inked outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and relievers Chris Perez and Rafael Perez to one-year pacts for the upcoming season. On Monday, the Tribe settled on a one-year deal with shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

As a result, Jerry Browne and Greg Swindell remain the answers to an Indians trivia question. They were the last players to go to an arbitration hearing with Cleveland, doing so back in 1991.

"Ideally, you'd always like to avoid going to a hearing room," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "But it has to be a value that makes sense for both sides. We've been fortunate that we've been able to work towards finding common ground with our players' representatives over the course of the last few years. We hope to be able to do it in the future."

The Indians settled with Choo, Chris and Rafael Perez leading up to Major League Baseball's 1 p.m. ET deadline on Tuesday for exchanging salary figures with any unsigned arbitration-eligible players. Baseball's arbitration hearings -- no longer necessary for the Tribe -- are slated to take place from Feb. 1-21.

After Cabrera signed a deal worth $2.025 million on Monday night, Chris Perez penned his name on a one-year contract worth $2.225 million and Rafael Perez agreed to a one-year, $1.33 million pact on Tuesday. Choo will earn $3.975 million.

One remaining question is how Choo's signing might affect any negotiations on a long-term contract for Cleveland's star outfielder. The Indians have made it known that they would like to lock Choo in with a multiyear deal, but that possibility is appearing increasingly unlikely this offseason.

Antonetti declined to offer any details about the ongoing negotiations.

"We're still in the midst of those discussions," Antonetti said. "I'm not going to go into specifics of where we are with that. I don't view the negotiations as being closed at this point."

The window for such talks might close once Opening Day arrives, considering Antonetti prefers not to have contract negotiations during the season. That said, the Indians GM noted that the club does not have a "hard and fast" policy in that regard.

"We're always mindful that we certainly don't want to cause any distractions during the season," Antonetti said. "We want players to be able to focus on playing and competing, so we typically refrain from negotiating during the season."

Choo, 28, remains under club control through the 2013 season. At the Winter Meetings in December, Choo's agent, Scott Boras, indicated that it might make sense to see how the Indians perform as a team over the next season or two before potentially agreeing to a long-term contract for Choo.

While earning $461,100 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.

In November, 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.

That brought a sense of relief to Choo and the Tribe.

"Choo's a great player who we're certainly excited to have part of our organization," Antonetti said. "We're in a very fortunate position that he's under team control for at least three more years. We have natural junctures in time to explore extending that relationship further. This is one of those junctures in time to explore it."

As for Chris Perez, who was eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, he pieced together a strong showing as Cleveland's closer over the final three months of last season. Perez anchors a relatively young bullpen that was one of the best in baseball down the stretch a year ago.

Chris Perez, 25, went 2-2 with a 1.71 ERA over 63 games last season, collecting 23 saves along the way. He struck out 61 and walked 28, limiting opposing hitters to a .182 average. With runners on base, he held batters to a paltry .133 average (second-lowest in the American League).

The full-time closer's role fell to Chris Perez after the Tribe dealt Kerry Wood to the Yankees prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline. Perez went on to become the youngest Indians reliever to record at least 20 saves in a single season. From June 28 through the end of the season, he fashioned a 0.53 ERA, the lowest among big league relievers over that span.

Chris Perez helped strengthen the back end of a bullpen that was critical in aiding Cleveland's young rotation. In the second half, the Tribe's relief corps as a whole posted a 2.95 ERA, fourth overall in the Majors and second only to the Yankees (2.86) in the AL.

Rafael Perez, 28, ended the 2010 season with a 6-1 record and a 3.25 ERA over 70 innings out of Cleveland's bullpen. Like both Chris Perez and Rafael Perez, relievers Jensen Lewis (he'll earn $650,000 in 2011) and Joe Smith ($870,000 plus incentives) avoided arbitration with the Indians this winter.

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.