CLEVELAND — It was what the Guardians — and their fans — desperately needed.
According to multiple reports, third baseman José Ramírez has agreed to a multi-year contract extension to stay in Cleveland through 2028. The deal is the largest in franchise history at $124 million over five years, and apparently includes a full no-trade clause.
ESPN's Jeff Passan was the first to confirm the full terms of the contract. Talks between the two sides had been swinging back and forth for the better part of the week, and if an agreement hadn't been reached, Ramírez was almost certainly going to be traded. The San Diego Padres were among the clubs who felt they had a shot at swooping in and making a deal.
The extension is in addition to Ramírez's two remaining club option years, worth $12 million in 2022 and $14 million in '23. All told, he will receive $150 million over the next seven seasons.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, Ramírez first broke into the big leagues with the then-named Indians in 2013, and after an up-and-down first few seasons eventually forced his way into the everyday lineup. Since then, the 29-year-old infielder has developed into one of Major League Baseball's best players, with an .855 OPS (126 OPS+), 163 home runs, 607 runs scored, 154 stolen bases, and 34.3 bWAR over his career. He has also made three American League All-Star teams, won three Silver Slugger Awards, finished in the top 10 of AL Most Valuable Player voting four times, and helped Cleveland reach the postseason on five separate occasions, including a run to the 2016 World Series.
Following that pennant, the Indians inked Ramírez to a five-year, $26 million contract that included the aforementioned options to potentially bring the deal to $52 million over seven years. While it was a significant pay raise for the young infielder, his production quickly out-paced its value, and it soon became apparent the organization would have to pony up more cash if they wanted to keep him in Cleveland long-term.
That has not been the team's M.O. for decades, specifically since the Dolan family took over as owners in 2000. While the club has remained one of the most successful in baseball during much of that stretch, fans have also had to sit and watch as some of their favorite players either left in free agency or were traded before they could do so. That agonizing list has included the likes of Jim Thome, CC Sabathia, and most recently Francisco Lindor.
It was under that cloud that negotiations began last month at spring training headquarters in Goodyear, Arizona, but as The Athletic's Zack Meisel wrote, talks soon stalled as both the front office and Ramírez's agent squabbled over money and length of the contract. Ultimately, it was the third baseman himself who decided it was time to strike a deal that could keep in Cleveland for the rest of his career, something he has apparently always wanted.
"He called his mom in the Dominican Republic to discuss his situation and to tell her how close he was to securing a nine-figure contract," Meisel wrote. "He called his agent and directed him to find some middle ground with Cleveland’s front office."
The extension comes at a crucial time for the Guardians, who are coming off an 80-82 campaign and have a projected payroll of less than $50 million in 2022, with no dollars previously guaranteed beyond this season. Attendance has also been a lingering issue, and the team seemingly needed some sort of jolt as it re-brands after 107 years as the Indians.
Prior to Ramírez, Cleveland's largest contract in terms of committed dollars had been the three-year, $60 million offer it gave to free-agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion prior to 2017. Encarnacion averaged 35 home runs and 107 RBIs in two seasons with the Tribe, but was traded in the 2018 offseason with one year (plus an option) left on the deal.
The Guardians will begin their season Thursday afternoon in Kansas City, with the home opener set for April 15 at Progressive Field.