Acquired: Trade, 11-3-2012
2013 Salary: $2.5M
2014 Contract Status: $3.5M (2015 team option)
Mike Aviles spent just over two weeks with the Blue Jays. Last year at this time John Farrell, then the manager of the Blue Jays, wished to take the Red Sox job, but as he was still under contract, the Blue Jays requested some compensation. Mike Aviles was it. And almost immediately they looked to trade Aviles. That's where the Indians stepped in, dealing Esmil Rogers to Toronto for Aviles and a marginal catching prospect that we might talk about a little later.
The reason the Indians traded for Aviles was to fortify their bench. In 2012 the Indians really didn't have a backup middle infielder, especially a backup that could play shortstop. At times that really hurt them, such as the stretch in which Juan Diaz was brought to start in late May. Jason Kipnis hardly got any days off down the stretch, and his offense suffered for it. The Indians weren't about to have that happen again, so they almost immediately acquired Aviles.
Mike Aviles was a late bloomer who made his major-league debut at the age of 27. He played both second base and shortstop with the Royals, and was with one exception (2008) a decent to good player. He was dealt to the Red Sox at the deadline in 2011, and arrived in Boston just in time for the epic collapse in September that cost Terry Francona his job. He was the starting shortstop for the Sawx in 2012, and again did a decent job, especially defensively. But I think most teams viewed Aviles as a stopgap until something better came along, and so Boston instead dealt Aviles and ended up signing Stephen Drew on the free agent market.
So for really the first time in his career, Aviles went into the 2013 season with no hope of winning a starting spot. He was to be a backup infielder, although he would play at least several times a week. As it turned out, Aviles appeared in 124 games, many of them starts, and got almost 400 Plate Appearances. He filled in for Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop when he went on the DL in June, and in the second half became more or less the everyday third baseman as Lonnie Chisenhall struggled. His overall defensive numbers probably took a hit because he was moving around a bit, and it looks like (small sample size) he's not all that comfortable at third base.
Aviles will be 33 in March, but the Indians can keep him through 2015 if they wish. He'll be making $3.5M next year, and the Indians have a $3.5M option for 2015. That's bench player money, and if everything works out that will be his role with the Indians. The only exception I could see to this would be if the Indians trade Asdrubal Cabrera this winter and use Aviles as the starter until Francisco Lindor is deemed ready. I do not think Aviles is a viable option at third base as an everyday player (doesn't seem as comfortable there, and doesn't have the bat for a corner spot), and Jason Kipnis isn't going anywhere. So I think that unless Cabrera is traded, Aviles will remain an important part of the bench, and nothing more.