Cabrera and Perez exchanged salary figures with the club prior to the 1 p.m. deadline for that step in the arbitration process, with arbitration hearings set to take place Feb. 1-21 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Indians have not gone to a hearing with a player since 1991.
Cabrera, a first-time All-star who started for the American League in the Midsummer Classic last year, batted .273 with 25 home runs and 92 RBIs in 151 games – the homer total accounting for the most in a single season by a Cleveland shortstop. He made $2.025 million in 2011 and is asking for $5.2 million in 2012. The Indians are offering $3.75 million.
The left-hander Perez is asking for $2.2 million, while the club is offering $1.6 million. Perez, a reliable late-inning reliever since 2008, went 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in 71 games last season.
Signing one-year contracts Tuesday were starting pitcher Justin Masterson, closer Chris Perez, right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, third baseman Jack Hannahan and reliever Joe Smith.
Masterson, who went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA in 34 starts, received the biggest salary boost. The right-hander, who made just $468,000 last year, is scheduled to earn $3.825 million in 2012.
Choo, got a $1 million raise ($3.9 million to $4.9 million) despite a down, injury-plagued season that saw him hit .259 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 85 games. A DUI arrest contributed to a trying year for Choo, whom the Indians are expecting big things from in 2010.
Chris Perez, 26, will make $4.5 million after earning $2.225 million in 2011. In his first full season as the closer, Perez went 4-7 with a 3.32 ERA in 64 appearances. He converted 36 of 40 save opportunities.
Fellow reliever Joe Smith, who had a breakout year in 2011 (2.01 ERA in 71 games), will earn $1.75 million next season after making $870,000 last year.
Hannahan, who won the starting job at third base during spring training and made $500,000, will make $1.135 million in 2012. He hit .250 with eight homers and 40 RBIs in 110 games as one of Cleveland’s top defensive infielders, and will compete this spring with Lonnie Chisenhall to open the season at third.
The Indians will continue to negotiate with Cabrera and Rafael Perez, hoping to avoid their first arbitration hearing since pitcher Greg Swindell and infielder Jerry Browne in 1991.
Cleveland would likely be interested in locking up Cabrera, its best all-around player, to a long-term contract, but the Indians have been unsuccessful in that avenue with another one of their top players, Choo, who is represented by agent Scott Boras and is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the 2012 season.
“In the end, both parties have to be interested in doing it,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said, “and you have to align the value. But, certainly, we’re open-minded to that.”