CLEVELAND — Nobody dodges salary arbitration like the Cleveland Indians.
With a hearing just days away, the club and All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera agreed to terms on a one-year, $4.55 million contract Friday, extending the Indians' streak of avoiding arbitration to 21 years.
The Indians haven't had an arbitration hearing since 1991, when gas was $1.14 per gallon and Cabrera was 6.
The agreement was $75,000 above the midpoint between the $5.2 million Cabrera asked for last month, and the $3.75 million the Indians had offered. A hearing had been scheduled for next week, but won't be necessary as the Indians kept their run alive. Cleveland hasn't gone to a hearing since pitcher Greg Swindell and Jerry Browne had their salaries decided by an arbitrator.
The Indians had discussions with Cabrera about a long-term deal but couldn't reach one.
"With Asdrubal, we're pleased that we were able to get a one-year deal done and resolve his contract status for this year," said general manager Chris Antonetti, who remains amenable to signing Cabrera beyond 2012. "Generally, we're always open-minded on alternate contract structures with a variety of players. And if there's something that makes sense, and there's a value in term that makes sense for both parties, we'll certain explore it."
Cabrera was easily the Indians' best player in 2011, when the club contended until September before injuries overwhelmed their depth and led to a late collapse.
The 26-year-old hit .273 with 25 homers, 92 RBIs and 32 doubles. He led the Indians in runs (87), hits (165), stolen bases (17) and set a club record for homers by a shortstop. Cabrera was named the Indians' "Man of the Year" by Cleveland's baseball writers and last week was honored as the city's top professional athlete in 2011 at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards.
He made $2,125,000 in 2011, his fifth season with the Indians who acquired him in a 2006 trade from Seattle.
In signing Cabrera, one of seven Cleveland players to file for arbitration this winter, the Indians do not have a single player with a guaranteed contract after the 2012 season. That fact, along with owner Larry Dolan's inability to compete with big-market franchises for top-tier free agents, has led to speculation the club could be for sale.
However, Antonetti downplayed the significance of the team not having any long-term deals on the books.
"I think that's just where we are right now and just the circumstances that have led us to this point," he said. "There's no hidden or ulterior motive behind that. I would expect that at some point we will have commitments that extend past 2012. Whether that happens at some point this offseason or at some point this spring or next offseason, we'll see.
"But it's not necessarily a calculated strategy. I think we as an organization and our ownership have demonstrated that when those commitments make sense, we're certainly prepared to make them. And we'll continue to evaluate those opportunities along the way."
Antonetti said the team has made offers past 2012, but none have resulted in multiyear contracts.
"As we've always talked about, there needs to be an alignment in both value and term from both the player and the team, and to date we have not been able to align on those values," he said. "And that applies both to internal discussions and free-agent discussions."
Cabrera is eligible for free agency after 2013. Obviously, the Indians view him as core player and one worth signing to a long-term deal.
"We are appreciative of Asdrubal's contributions and certainly value him as a member of the organization and a member of our team," Antonetti said. "He was a key part of our team over the last few seasons and we're looking forward to him contributing in the time that he is with us.
"And how long that extends, it's going to be at least two years and it certainly could extend beyond that."