Aug 2, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Surrounded by his family, Cleveland Indians former player Jim Thome signs a one-day contract with Cleveland Indians president Mark Shapiro before the game between the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
About a week ago Jonah Keri’s piece on baseball’s worst contracts sparked thoughts about some of the Indians all-time worst contracts. We noticed that in recent history, the Indians have been burned handing out multi-year deals to 30-something year old players as well as extending their own players a second time.
Where the Indians have excelled contract-wise, is locking up their own young players, a trail Hank Peters and John Hart blazed in the early 1990’s. That’s how they’ve landed most of their best business deals.
Perhaps one of their best deals for an aging player ever – Dennis Martinez, who earned roughly $14 million in three years in Cleveland. Gave the Indians 32 wins in his age 40, 41 an 42 seasons. In 1995 he was worth 5.7 wins and was an All-Star. Would any 40 year old get a three-year deal now? Would any of them post a five WAR season at age 40? Given his age, El Presidente certainly made out as well as the Indians did in this deal.
Sep 9, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Former pitcher Orel Hershiser throws the ceremonial first pitch prior to a game between the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Orel Hershiser went 6-6 in 21 starts for the Dodgers in 1993 at age 35. After an incredible run in blue, they had doubts about how much was left in the tank. The Indians thought there was enough to give him a three year/$6.35 million deal. He won 45 games in three seasons and a combined 8.7 WAR. Despite some very inflated ERA’s (it was the heart of the steroid era) and collecting wins on the strength of a herculean offense, Hershiser gave the Indians what they needed in the 90s.
Ronnie Belliard earned $7.6 million over his three years in Cleveland. Though he played about one-third of his season in St. Louis after a trade in 2006, Belliard hit more homers as an Indian each year than he had any year prior. An All-Star in 2004, the second baseman was worth 3.4 wins that season and 4.5 in 2005. It might have behooved the Indians to hang onto him through 2006, as he produced three more quality years in Washington. The Indians went the way of the miserable Josh Barfield experiment. Second base has not been on of the best positions the Indians have handled recently, so let’s hope that Jason Kipnis deal doesn’t bite them.
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