CLEVELAND -- The Indians had not gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since President George H. W. Bush was in the White House. That impressive run, which marked the longest ongoing streak of its kind in baseball, came to an end.
The Indians and reliever Vinnie Pestano each presented their case before an arbitration panel on Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla., in an effort to determine the pitcher's salary for the 2014 season. Pestano lost, meaning the right-hander will earn $975,000 this year.
Cleveland's last hearing prior to this came in 1991, when Greg Swindell and Jerry Browne went to arbitration against the Tribe.
The Indians also have arbitration hearings on the calendar this month with All-Star starter Justin Masterson (Feb. 20), outfielder Michael Brantley (Feb. 17) and right-hander Josh Tomlin (Feb. 14). The two sides can reach an agreement on a contract at any point leading up to the respective hearings.
Following a season marred by injury and inconsistency, Pestano's representatives, PSI Sports Management, requested a salary of $1.45 million for the upcoming campaign. The Indians, who sent assistant general manager Mike Chernoff and general counsel Joe Znidarsic to Florida for the hearing, countered with an offer of $975,000.
Pestano, who turns 29 years old on Feb. 20, turned in a 4.08 ERA with 37 strikeouts and 21 walks in 37 games (35 1/3 innings) last year for the Indians. A pre-existing right elbow injury flared up on the right-hander during the World Baseball Classic and later forced him to the disabled list in late April. In July, Pestano also dealt with a demotion to Triple-A Columbus.
Prior to last season's subpar showing, though, Pestano had served as Cleveland's primary setup man, emerging as one of baseball's top late-inning relievers. Across the 2011-12 seasons, the righty had a 2.45 ERA with 160 strikeouts and 48 walks in 137 outings (132 innings). Pestano set a single-season club record with 36 holds in 2012.
In the bigger picture, Pestano's past three seasons of work are comparable to those of Mets reliever Bobby Parnell. Over the 2011-13 campaigns, Pestano posted a 2.80 ERA to go along with a 139 ERA+ in 167 1/3 innings in his age 26-28 seasons. During that same span and with the same age range, Parnell had a 2.78 ERA with a 133 ERA+ in 178 innings. Parnell earned $1.7 million to Pestano's $501,900 in 2013.
The highest profile case involves the 28-year-old Masterson, who will be eligible for free agency next winter. The right-hander's camp has requested a salary of $11.8 million, while the Indians have countered with an offer of $8.05 million. The $3.75-million gap between proposals is the largest among all eligible Major League players who filed salary figures with their teams this offseason.
Masterson went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 195 strikeouts in 193 innings for the Indians last season, serving as a leader both in the rotation and clubhouse for the Tribe. The starter has taken the ball on Opening Day in each of the past two years for Cleveland and has expressed a willingness to discuss a long-term contract.
Brantley, 26, is eligible for arbitration for the first time and is seeking a salary of $3.8 million, while Cleveland has offered $2.7 million. Last season, the outfielder posted a .284/.332/.396 slash line with 10 homers, 26 doubles, 73 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 151 games. Over the past three years, Brantley has turned in a .280/.334/.394 slash line, with 121 extra-base hits, 179 RBIs and 192 runs in 414 games.
The slimmest salary gap belongs to the 29-year-old Tomlin, who appeared in just one game (two innings) for the Indians last season, after spending most of the season coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Tomlin (23-19 with a 4.92 ERA in 60 career games for the Indians) has asked for $975,000, and Cleveland has countered with an offer of $800,000.