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Francisco Lindor, Trevor Bauer eyeing biggest arbitration awards in Cleveland Indians’ history

CLEVELAND, Ohio – It’s one thing to avoid going to arbitration with catcher Kevin Plawecki. It’s quite another to avoid an arbitration hearing with Francisco Lindor and Trevor Bauer.

The Indians acquired Plawecki from the Mets on Sunday for right-hander Walker Lockett and minor league infielder Sam Haggerty. On Wednesday, they reached a one-year deal with Plawecki for $1,137,500. Who said being a backup catcher doesn’t pay? Plawecki, who made $557,471 last season, more than doubled his salary.

But now come the heavy hitters – Lindor and Bauer. They’re in line to get the two biggest arbitration payoffs in club history. The process starts Friday when players and teams exchange salary figures for 2019.

Last year Bauer became the first player to beat the Indians in arbitration since Greg Swindell in 1991 when he was awarded a salary of $6.525 million. The Indians offered him $5.3 million. MLBtraderumors projects Bauer could earn $11.6 million this year.

The basic agreement allows for the two sides to negotiate after numbers are exchanged. Last year the Indians took a file-and-trial approach with Bauer. They decided that if they couldn’t reach a deal before salary figures were exchanged, they’d let the arbitration panel pick the player’s salary figure or the team’s. There can be no middle ground.

They could take the same approach with Bauer and Lindor this year.

Lindor, eligible for arbitration for the first time, made $623,200 last year. MLBtraderumors projects he could make $10.2 million this year. There is speculation Lindor could challenge Kris Bryant’s record salary of $10.85 million for a first-year arbitration player.

Teams prefer to avoid arbitration. Sitting before an arbitration panel harping on your player’s faults so you don’t have to pay him what he wants is never a good thing. Win or lose, the team almost always loses in the mind of the player.

Players tend to avoid arbitration as well. Of course, some guys such as Vinnie Pestano, Josh Tomlin and Bauer just like a good fight. The Indians dusted Pestano and Tomlin in their arbitration hearings, but Bauer beat them last year. Bauer, in his clinical analysis of such things, simply said he wanted to see how the process worked.

He has a good case this time around as well. He went 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA in 28 games last season. Bauer, despite missing five weeks with a stress fracture just above his right ankle, struck out 221 batters in 175 1/3 innings. The injury knocked him out of being a serious Cy Young candidate, but he still finished sixth in the voting.

Bauer, who made his first All-Star team last season, recovered in time to pitch out of the bullpen in the ALDS. He made three appearances, going 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA, as the Indians were swept by Houston.

Lindor, 25, has been one of baseball best bargain’s for the first three-plus years of his career. This time around he is going to get paid. The switch-hitting shortstop enters the arbitration process as a three-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger winner. He’s helped the Indians win three straight division titles and one pennant. Along the way he won a Gold Glove and a Platinum Glove as the best defender in the AL.

Last season he hit .277 (183-for-661) with 38 homers, 92 RBI and 129 runs. For two years running Lindor has set the franchise record for homers and extra base hits by a shortstop. Last year he spent most of time in the leadoff spot, tying MVP Mookie Betts for the AL lead with 129 runs.

Lindor made 157 starts at shortstop, compiling a fielding percentage of .976 with 14 errors in 586 total chances. Fangraphs.com credited him with 14 defensive runs saved, third among MLB shortstops last year.

The Indians went into the offseason with seven players eligible for arbitration. Plawecki made it eight.

They reached deals with Danny Salazar at $4.5 million, Leonys Martin at $3 million, Neil Ramirez at $1 million, Cody Anderson at $641,250, Nick Goody at $675,000 and Plawecki. Arbitration hearings run from Feb. 1-20.

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