CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Indians have choices when it comes to right-hander Danny Salazar.
They can try to sign him before Friday’s 8 p.m. deadline for offering contracts to arbitration eligible players for 2019. They can make him a free agent by not offering him a contract and cut the cord to a former All-Star who has been in the organization for 12 years. They can let him turn free agent and try to sign him. Or they can offer him a contract and continue to negotiate with him before going to arbitration.
The Indians could also trade him, but given his injury history that seems doubtful.
Last year Salazar earned $5 million and never threw a pitch in a game. He came to camp with a sore right shoulder that eventually led to season-ending surgery on July 2.
The Indians are trying to keep last season’s franchise-record payroll of $135 million in check. They are considering trading some established veterans to fill holes in the outfield and bullpen and create some payroll, so they can dip their toes in the free-agent pool. Paying Salazar another $5 million – or close to it – when he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2015 and has been on the disabled list four times since August of 2016 represents a tough decision.
They were in a similar situation with outfielder Leonys Martin. Like Salazar, Martin was eligible for arbitration. He missed a significant part of the season with a bacterial infection that ended his season after the Indians acquired him from Detroit on July 31.
The Tribe signed Martin to a one-year, $3 million deal on Oct. 31. He made $1.75 million last year.
Trevor Bauer, Francisco Lindor, Cody Anderson, Nick Goody and Neil Ramirez are also eligible for arbitration and must be tendered contracts by Friday’s deadline. Ramirez joins Salazar on the bubble when it comes to who will be tendered a contract and who won’t.
Bauer and Lindor are due significant raises. Bauer’s salary is projected to increase from $6.525 million to $11.6 million, according to mlbtraderumors.com. While Bauer is eligible for arbitration for the third time, this is Lindor’s first time. He could break Kris Bryant’s record for first-year players of $10.85 million. Lindor made $623,200 last season.
Anderson is coming off Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and has not pitched in the big leagues since 2016. He appeared in three minor-league games at the end of last season and is expected to be healthy coming into spring training. Goody opened last season with the Tribe, but injured his right elbow on May 3 and underwent season-ending surgery on Aug. 31. Salazar was expected to start throwing in November.
Ramirez, who came to camp on a minor league deal last season, is projected to make $1.3 million in arbitration. Ramirez teamed with Oliver Perez to save the Tribe’s struggling bullpen from late May through early July. Then Ramirez had trouble keeping the ball in the park as he allowed nine homers in 41 2/3 innings.
Salazar, 28, has had his most success as a starter, but three years of shoulder and elbow injuries could put him in the bullpen. But if the Indians trade a starter, could Salazar fill that hole in the rotation? If not Salazar alone – he’s never pitched more than 185 innings in a season – how about a combination of him and Anderson?
Presently, Salazar is nothing more than a wild card. An expensive wild card who hasn’t been healthy for three seasons.