Jose Ramirez is extending his time in Ohio…
The 29-year-old Dominican professional baseball player, an MLB All-Star third baseman and the Cleveland Guardians have agreed on a five-year, $124 million contract extension, according to ESPN.
Cleveland set the table for this move during the offseason, picking up Ramirez’s $12 million contract option on November 5 after an MVP-caliber campaign for Ramirez. The formal transaction allowed the franchise some room for longer-term negotiations once baseball’s work stoppage ended.
The five-year, $124 million extension is the largest in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The Guardians had been one of five Major League Baseball teams that had never agreed to a $100 million contract with a player. The Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox are the others.
Ramirez, who has finished in the top three of the American League MVP voting three times in his career, was one of few bright spots for Cleveland’s inconsistent offense during the team’s final season with its old nickname. He hit .266 with 36 home runs, 103 RBIs and 27 steals in the final year of what was a team-friendly $26 million, four-year contract.
“I would really like to stay,” Ramirez said after Cleveland finished 80-82 last year, the club’s first losing season since 2012. “But there’s no rush. I would really like to stay here the rest of my career. But we have to wait to see what happens. I would love to see what they have to offer.”
The veteran’s future has been a hot topic during spring training in Goodyear, Arizona, and manager Terry Francona was not afraid to open up about it last month.
“I think Jose knows how we feel about him,” Francona told reporters during a March 17 media availability. “In this age of blogging and the internet, there is so much out there that we could make ourselves crazy. I hope it doesn’t make him crazy. I don’t think it does.”
Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s president, also addressed his star infielder’s future in Arizona last month.
“Without getting into specifics, I do think we’ll have some internal conversations,” Antonetti said about the new deal. “The timing of that is really hard to say when we’ll be able to do that, just because of the compressed nature of the offseason.”
Ramirez is the only position player left from Cleveland’s 2016 pennant-winning team, which lost the World Series in seven games. He has been in the majors since 2013, spending his entire career with Cleveland. In his first season, he appeared in just 15 games, but he has topped 120 games in five seasons since — and has stayed relatively healthy.
Francona expects to use Ramirez in the No. 3 spot in the batting order this season, telling reporters last month that it was safe to “ink” him in that spot moving forward.
The Guardians will open the year Thursday against the Kansas City Royals. In that game, right-hander Shane Bieber will become the 12th pitcher in franchise history to make three consecutive Opening Day starts.
Opening Day will also see the return of Francona to regular-season action for Cleveland after missing time because of toe surgery.
“It’s been a hard couple years, there’s no getting around it,” Francona said. “And I don’t want to act like a big baby because I know there’s people that have had way worst bouts than I had. But it’s not been easy.”