Aviles, Indians avoid arbitration with two-year deal
Club also signs southpaw Hill to contract that includes spring invitation
CLEVELAND -- The Indians have quite the aversion to arbitration hearings.
On Thursday, the team agreed with utility man Mike Aviles on a two-year contract worth $6 million. The deal includes a club option for a third year and prevents the Indians from having to settle Aviles' salary in an arbitration case. The organization has not gone to a hearing since 1991.
Aviles was the club's final unsigned, arbitration-eligible player. They already locked in outfielder Drew Stubbs, catcher Lou Marson and right-handers Justin Masterson, Chris Perez, Joe Smith and Matt Albers to pacts for the 2013 campaign.
"We certainly saw Mike being a good fit on the team for multiple seasons," general manager Chris Antonetti said Thursday. "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."
Cleveland acquired Aviles and catcher Yan Gomes from Toronto on Nov. 3 in exchange for right-handed reliever Esmil Rogers. The 31-year-old is expected to fill a variety of roles for his new team, including backup infielder, part-time designated hitter and emergency outfielder.
"I'm blessed and cursed with versatility," Aviles said at Tribe Fest last month. "I can play everywhere and it's just something that I've always had a knack for, trying to pick up second, short, third, left, right, whatever the case may be. As long as I get a chance to play, I know I can help the team win."
Aviles batted .250 with 13 homers, 60 RBIs and 14 stolen bases as Boston's primary shortstop in 2012. He totes a career average of .277 in 475 contests. Aviles finished fourth in the voting for American League Rookie of the Year in 2008, when he batted a career-best .325 in 102 games for Kansas City.
The Indians essentially bought out Aviles' two remaining years of arbitration eligibility. He wouldn't have been able to hit free agency until after the 2014 season. Asdrubal Cabrera, the team's starting shortstop and a two-time All-Star, is also eligible for free agency following the '14 season.
Arbitration hearings for the league's eligible unsigned players commenced on Monday and run through Feb. 20. Aviles' camp originally requested a salary of $3.4 million. Cleveland countered with a proposal of $2.4 million. Aviles earned $1.2 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility last season.
"We thought that it made sense to provide [Aviles] with some security and get us some cost certainty for the next few years," Antonetti said. "That was the motivating factor behind the deal."
In 2011, Aviles played in 38 games for the Red Sox under manager Terry Francona, who took over as Tribe skipper this offseason.
"In the two months I played for him in Boston, he was the best manager I've ever played for. He was a good guy, definitely a player's manager. He's always going to stick up for you."
The Indians also signed hurler Rich Hill on Thursday to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. The 32-year-old southpaw posted a 1.83 ERA in 25 relief outings with the Red Sox last season, tallying 21 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings. For his career, Hill is 23-20 with a 4.59 ERA in 118 outings (70 starts).
Antonetti said Hill will vie for a spot in the bullpen.
"When he's been healthy, he's had success in that role," Antonetti said. "We're looking forward to seeing him come to camp and compete for a spot."