Cleveland Indians: Who’s Next For An Extension?

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The Cleveland Indians have locked up their aces to contract extensions. Who’s next in line?

It’s not a surprise that the Cleveland Indians went out of their way to lock up their staff aces Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, and you can read Wahoo’s on First’s coverage on Kluber here, how Carrasco is extremely pivotal here, and how once you join the Tribe, you’re family (just like Olive Garden). It’s entirely their modus operandi (M.O. for those not fluent in Latin) to lock up their young talent before they become too expensive and lose them in free agency. So the question is: who’s next young breakout star to get paid handsomely and give the Indians some financial certainty throughout their time in Cleveland? Let’s take a look:

Trevor Bauer 

Bauer is coming to the end of the contract he signed coming out of college, which means he has 4 years of team control left, which is more than Carrasco and less than what Kluber had at the time of their extensions. Bauer had a mini break out last year, putting in 153 innings of work with a 4.18 ERA and a 4.01 FIP, tallying 143 strikeouts. He looks to head into 2015 with improved mechanics (that will probably be tinkered with 1,000 times before the year is done), and the mandate to walk fewer batters. He carried that mandate through the spring, walking only 1 batter in six starts. Could Cleveland try to lock up it’s young pitching guru? He remains under team control, but there remains wonkiness because of the fact that he signed a major league contract out of college. 2016 will cost the team around $2 million before becoming arbitration eligible in 2017. I definitely expect Cleveland to try and buy out some arbitration years if Bauer impresses in 2015.

Extension guess: 75%

Lonnie Chisenhall

Chiz comes into 2015 with a starting spot at third with no one biting on his heels or fighting him for playing time, unless you think Giovanny Urshela is ready. Chisenhall needs to produce in 2015 if he wants to make a big payday in 2016. He is arbitration eligible after this year, after earning $2.25 million in 2015. Urshela might not push for playing time in 2015, but if Chisenhall struggles, the front office, not to mention the fans, could make push Jose Ramirez over to third and bring up Francisco Lindor to play shortstop.

Extension guess: 50%

Apr 8, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman

Carlos Santana

(41) hits a home run during the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Santana

Santana’s appearance on this list is somewhat confusing because he has already signed an extension with the Indians, but he is coming close on the end of his contract. He is signed through 2016 earning $8.25 million, with a team option in 2017 for $12 million or a $1.2 million buyout option. It’s not out of the question for Cleveland to look at Santana and see a player aging well. Santana plays good to great defense at first and has a great batting eye, logging 113 walks last year with 27 HRs. Santana could absolutely see an extension of 2-3 years in the works.

Extension guess: 65% 

Francisco Lindor

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Even though he hasn’t played in the majors yet, Lindor is already expected to be the second coming of Lou Boudreau. Obviously he is under team control for years to come, and will be very very cheap before his arbitration years kick in. Cleveland would be smart to try for a Mike Trout type deal (not for quite as much money): 6 year deal, buying out all of his arbitration years for $144 .5 million. Obviously Trout earned the deal, accumulating 16.8 WAR over the two years before his arbitration was going to kick in, and Lindor is not expected to be THAT good of a player, but a 6 or 7 year deal at $100 million is not out of the question, especially if he comes up this season and performs as expected.

Extension guess: 100%

Are all of these players going to sign extensions? More than likely not. Cleveland’s front office likes to sign players to extension when it benefits the team and the player, and while locking up future payroll in multiple players is essential when you’re a small market franchise, you do want to have some flexibility to sign and trade players. In 2015, Cleveland’s opening day payroll was $88 million, the second highest in franchise history. It’s possible that next year the payroll could see a jump to $93-96 million because of approximately $66 million already set aside, not to mention the arbitration numbers for Chisenhall and Brandon Moss, amongst others. As the years go by, however, aging players will get phased out by rookies and prospects, and the payroll number will turn back down and we will be looking at a new crop of players looking for their payday. Hopefully we will see a championship trophy with some of the names on this list on it.

Next: Should the Indians trade Murphy?

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