CLEVELAND -- The Indians believe Mike Aviles will play an important role for the ballclub this season. First, though, there is the matter of finalizing the infielder's contract.
As the calendar flipped to February on Friday, Cleveland still had not reached a settlement with Aviles, who represents the team's only unsettled arbitration case. The Indians have not gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since 1991, and the club is hoping to avoid the process again this offseason.
"As always," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti wrote in an e-mail, "our hope and preference is to get a deal done, but it's hard to handicap the probabilities at this point."
Antonetti declined to comment in further detail about the ongoing negotiations.
Arbitration hearings for baseball's eligible unsigned players begin on Monday and run through Feb. 20. It is not immediately known when Aviles' hearing is scheduled, but the two sides can strike a deal at any point leading up to that date.
Aviles' camp has requested a salary of $3.4 million for the infielder, who earned $1.2 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility last season. Cleveland countered with an offer of $2.4 million for the coming campaign.
At a recent event in Boston, Aviles said he is leaving the contract talks to his agent.
"I stay out of it, in all honesty," Aviles said last week. "My job is to play baseball. That's my agent's job, that's what they're supposed to do. As far as I know, everything is progressing and I don't see why it wouldn't be settled. But like I said, I stay out of it, and I just wait to hear when my agent calls me and tells me what we got and what's going on.
"I just let him do his job, because I don't let him tell me how to do my job. I leave it at that and this way, it's a little less stressful."
Last season, the 31-year-old Aviles hit .250 with 13 home runs, 14 stolen bases, 28 doubles, 57 runs and 60 RBIs in 136 games as the regular shortstop for the Red Sox. Over parts of five seasons in the big leagues with Kansas City and Boston, Aviles has hit .277 with a .308 on-base percentage and a .408 slugging percentage in 475 games.
The Indians acquired Aviles, along with catcher Yan Gomes, from the Blue Jays on Nov. 3 in exchange for reliever Esmil Rogers.
With the Tribe, Aviles is expected to fill a super-utility role, serving as the primary backup for second base, shortstop and third base. Aviles might also be asked to serve as an emergency outfielder and part-time designated hitter.