PHOENIX: Jose Ramirez’s road to the success he had at the major-league level last season was not the one easily traveled.
He wasn’t signed to a major signing bonus out of the Dominican Republic. He wasn’t touted as a top prospect. He had to earn his playing time through his rise in the minors. Last season, he was given an everyday chance with Michael Brantley on the disabled list and with it, carved out his place in the club’s long-term plans as an everyday player.
On Tuesday morning, the club officially announced a five-year extension worth $26 million that will keep Ramirez with the Indians through at least the 2021 season. It also includes two club options that could push the total value of the deal to seven years and $50 million.
“We couldn’t be more excited for a variety of reasons,” said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. “First and foremost it secures the future of another key member of our team for years to come. … He’s not the biggest, physical, most imposing guy, but he’s a baseball player and a guy that found a way to earn that next opportunity.”
It’ll keep the versatile infielder, diminutive in stature but not in confidence, with the Indians for the foreseeable future and at a much more substantial price tag.
“I’m really happy,” said Ramirez through team interpreter Anna Bolton. “I thank my family for all the support they have given me as well as the fans in Cleveland and for the staff who has helped me along the way and who believed in me. … It means a lot that [the Indians] believed in me and that they kept their faith in me and I just really appreciate it and I thank them for that.”
Last spring, Ramirez was mostly looked at as a utility player who hadn’t yet put it together. He had stretches of brilliance but it repeatedly ended with him being sent back down to the minor leagues. Fast forward one year, and Ramirez parlayed a bad situation for the Indians into a long-term extension.
Everything clicked. Ramirez hit .312 with a .363 on-base percentage to go with 11 home runs, 46 doubles, 76 RBI and 22 stolen bases while moving between left field and third base. He gave the Indians 4.8 WAR, per FanGraphs. Through it, he became a major reason the Indians won their first division title since 2007 and made their first World Series appearance since 1997.
“This kid’s been with us now parts of four years, and there’s been some ups and downs,” Indians manager Terry Francona. “And then, when we sort of seemed like we had the ultimate down with Brantley out, he comes into the fold and not only picks up some of the slack, but proves that he’s an everyday major-league player. And also, to add to that, you get the versatility that he can do, and it makes him even better. We’re excited.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.