GOODYEAR, ARIZ.: The reported agreement between the Indians and Jose Ramirez on a contract extension that could keep him with the Indians through the 2023 season is not yet official. But it’s clear Ramirez has carved his name into the Indians’ plans.
The five-year deal, which includes 2017, is worth a reported $26 million and runs through the 2021 season. It also includes club options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons that, if picked up, could push the value of the extension to $50 million. The deal will likely be announced this week.
It in part signals the growth of a young infielder whose career has already included a number of ups and downs, a language barrier and one unforgettable strut.
“It’s funny because I thought when he first came to the big leagues he was unbelievably confident, to the point where you’re like, ‘Hey man, you’re not invincible out there,’?’’ Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And when things didn’t go well, you could see that, too. It was frustrating because we didn’t feel like we could help him as much as we wanted to because of the language barrier. That’s one of the things we talked to him about a lot. But now whether he gets off to a slow start or not, he knows he’s a good player.”
Ramirez is no longer the confident utility infielder with one great season under his belt. He’s a mainstay in the Indians’ plans and one of the core players on the roster.
He’s also the next player in a growing line to be locked up to a long-term extension early in his service time, joining Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana. Those deals, which have always included club options, have become somewhat of a signature of Chris Antonetti. In this way, the Indians have kept their core and now hold some of the more valuable assets in the game compared to market value.
“I think they’ve done a very good job of trying to not just tie up the core guys, but identifying the core guys,” Francona said. “And I think in all reality, because we think we’re a better baseball team, better organization now, I think guys are probably more willing to want to stay. I think that’s a good thing.”
Last spring Ramirez elevated himself from a utility player to the Indians’ everyday third baseman, along the way carrying the workload left by an injured Michael Brantley in left field and the departed Juan Uribe at third base. After two seasons of up-and-down stretches, it was his breakthrough. It was enough for the Indians to reportedly pull the trigger on a long-term extension that essentially keeps Ramirez in Cleveland a bit longer than he would have through arbitration and also giving the club two option years and additional flexibility.
“Last year, for whatever reason, he never had a problem in April and he got consistent at-bats and he just turned himself into a really good player,” Francona said. “That’s the hope sometimes that, OK, if somebody goes down, one, you want them to fit in admirably but when you also find out now you have an everyday player, that’s a bonus. He deserves a lot of credit. He really is a good player.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.