Asdrubal Cabrera is 26 and just had the best season of his life. He's two years away from free agency and the Indians don't have a shortstop in the farm system ready to replace him within that time frame.

We should all be so lucky, right?

Cabrera on Friday added more intrigue to the situation by signing a one-year, $4.55 million contract to avoid arbitration. It wasn't the multiyear deal that he and his agents wanted, but he is entering his fifth big-league season, which has become the new walk year for many good players.

Some general managers feel that if they don't get a quality player signed to a multiyear deal before their fifth season, they have two choices -- trade the player or watch him walk away through free agency. A player needs six full seasons in the big leagues to qualify for free agency.

So let the questions begin. Did Cabrera just slip into the driver's seat or the pressure cooker of his career? He showed well in 2011, but was it the arrival of a premier shortstop or just an unexpected spike in performance?

Outside of hitting .308 with 42 doubles in 2009, Cabrera never gave an indication that he was capable of hitting 25 homers and driving in 92 runs as he did last year. The 25 homers set a club record for a shortstop. The 92 RBI were the most by an Indians shortstop since Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau drove in 106 in 1948.

Within his 2011 numbers, Cabrera hit .293 (105-for-358) with 14 homers and 51 RBI in the first half and was the starting shortstop for the American League at the All-Star Game. In the second half, while playing with nagging injuries and reaching a career-high 151 games, he hit .244 (60-for-246) with 11 homers and 41 RBI. The inconsistency that has marked Cabrera's career dogged his best season as well.