"I will refrain from commenting on any particular negotiation at this point," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said via email. "But I will say that it's very likely that we will end up with at least one hearing this year."
The case in question likely involves All-Star starter Justin Masterson.
According to a source, there has been little progress in discussions about a long-term contract extension for Masterson, who will be eligible for free agency next offseason. It is also a realistic possibility that the $3.75 million gap in salary proposals for the upcoming season will lead to an arbitration hearing for the right-hander.
Masterson's camp submitted a salary request of $11.8 million, while Cleveland countered with an offer of $8.05 million for 2014. The difference in the proposals represents the largest gap among the Majors' unsigned arbitration players. Either salary also marks a significant raise from the $5,687,500 that Masterson earned last season.
The Indians also have unsettled cases involving left fielder Michael Brantley ($3.8 million requested against $2.7 million offered), reliever Vinnie Pestano ($1.145 million requested against $975,000 offered) and starter Josh Tomlin ($975,000 requested against $800,000 offered).
The two sides can settle on a contract at any point leading up to the hearings, which are slated to take place from Feb. 1-21.
The Indians have engaged in some long-term talks with Masterson, but the pitcher's agent, Randy Rowley, has maintained all winter that he is willing to let the process play out in order to get a deal deemed fair in comparison to the current market. Even if the sides decide to settle on a one-year contract for now, extension talks could continue throughout Spring Training.
Masterson, who will turn 29 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA last season, piling up 195 strikeouts in 193 innings to help the Indians capture the American League's top Wild Card spot. The righty was on pace for a third consecutive season with at least 200 innings logged until an oblique injury sidelined him for most of September.
Over the final week of the season, Masterson served as a late-inning pitcher for the Tribe, which acquired him via trade from the Red Sox on July 31, 2009. Masterson is 44-55 with a 4.08 ERA in parts of five seasons with the Indians, but he has gone 37-35 with a 3.86 ERA and an average of 171 strikeouts and 205 innings across the past three years.