Chris Perez avoids arbitration with Indians for $7.3 million

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Chris Perez has avoided arbitration in his second-to-last season of eligibility, agreeing to a one-year, $7.3 million deal with the Indians.

Perez showed some signs of decline in 2011, including a career-worst strikeout rate of 5.9 per nine innings, but last season he whiffed 9.2 per nine innings while saving 36 games with a 3.59 ERA.

If the Indians struggle in 2013 he’ll likely be a prime trade candidate, as Perez will probably command more than $10 million via arbitration for 2014 and would then hit the free agent market at age 28. Vinnie Pestano is waiting in the wings to take over ninth-inning duties if needed, although for now at least Perez is obviously a big part of Cleveland’s plans.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.