CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians have once again dodged the arbitrator.
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For the 22nd straight year, the club stayed out of salary arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $6 million contract with infielder Mike Aviles on Thursday. The deal includes a club option for 2015.
Cleveland has not had a player go to arbitration since Greg Swindell and Jerry Browne in 1991, a streak that was in jeopardy before the Indians locked up Aviles for two more years. His hearing was scheduled for next week.
Acquired from Toronto in November, Aviles projects to give the Indians depth at second base, shortstop and maybe the outfield. He spent last season as Boston’s primary shortstop, batting .250 with 13 homers and 60 RBIs in 136 games.
Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said the club initially brought in Aviles to fill a short-term need and decided he could also help them over the long haul.
“We certainly saw Mike being a good fit on the team for multiple seasons,” Antonetti said on a conference call. “Once we started the negotiating process and understood that Mike had an interest in a multi-year deal as well, we worked to try to get something done.”
Aviles’ deal would be worth $9.25 million over three years if the option is exercised, and he could earn $500,000 annually in performance bonuses. The 31-year-old receives a $1 million signing bonus and salaries of $1.75 million this season and $3 million in 2014, and the Indians hold a $3.5 million option in 2015 with a $250,000 buyout.
He would earn $100,000 each year for reaching 550 plate appearances, and $200,000 apiece for 600 and 625.
Aviles set a career-high in doubles (28) last season and matched personal bests in extra-base hits (41) and steals (14).
With no primary designated hitter currently on Cleveland’s roster, Aviles could get some at-bats as DH. New manager Terry Francona has said he may use “a committee” to fill the role.
Aviles also provides the Indians with a backup plan at short in case the club doesn’t re-sign All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera, whose contract will expire after the 2014 season. Cabrera has been mentioned in trade rumors before, and it’s possible the Indians could find themselves in a position to deal him with several young promising shortstops already in their system.
The Indians also signed free agent left-hander Rich Hill to a minor league contract with an invitation to their training camp.
The 32-year-old Hill has made 70 career starts for the Chicago Cubs, Baltimore and Boston. He spent the past three seasons in the Red Sox organization, going a combined 2-0 with a 1.14 ERA in 40 relief appearances. He had a 1.83 ERA last season, but was limited to 25 outings following reconstructive elbow surgery.