The Cleveland Indians had one of the top players in the American League last year in Jose Ramirez. After placing 3rd in MVP voting, his contract is a steal.
As much as everyone hates the term “small market team”, it’s what the Indians are. And to be successful in the long run as a small market team, it’s vital to have some of your best players signed at below market rates.
Jose Ramirez is probably signed for one of the most team friendly contracts in baseball. The only potential rival for this title is Chris Archer of the Rays, who’s controllable for the next four years for just over $30 million total.
But Ramirez’s deal is even better than that. Prior to the 2017 season, Ramirez and the Indians agreed to a five year, $26 million contract. In his MVP caliber season last year, he played for about $570k, with a signing bonus on top.
You could say that Francisco Lindor is also playing on one of those team friendly contracts. But his value isn’t locked in long term. He still has the full three years of arbitration and the money he will earn isn’t locked in, which is why an extension could come soon. Ramirez’s salary, however, is locked in for the next several years.
Just look at how much Ramirez is slated to earn over the rest of his contract per Spotrac.
2022: Club option for $11MM
2023:Club option for $13MM
That’s a very inexpensive contract, especially considering the level of play that Ramirez brings. His stats last year were tremendous. He hit .318/.374/.583 with a league leading 56 doubles, six triples, 29 homers, 83 RBIs, and even stole 17 bases. He also drew 52 walks while striking out only 69 times. He was an All Star and a Silver Slugger, not to mention his top-3 MVP finish.
The Cleveland Indians are getting all of that in their lineup for just pennies on the dollar. Ramirez is probably worth at least $20 million a season based off those numbers. But instead of earning $20 million, he’s getting $2 million, courtesy of one of the most team friendly deals in baseball.
Ramirez does not appear to be in line for any regression this season, either. A player’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is an indicator on whether a player was truly good or just lucky. Ramirez’s BABIP last year was .319, which is not as high as one might have thought. So he wasn’t getting overly lucky, meaning that this breakout was for real and he’s extremely likely to repeat his success.
How valuable is his contract?
Also per Spotrac, Ramirez represented the 10th best contract value in baseball last season, behind the likes of Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Kris Bryant. But none of those players are locked into long term deals like Ramirez is. Bryant has already hit arbitration and his price will continue to skyrocket. Correa will hit arbitration next year, Altuve has two years left, and Judge still has arbitration to hit. Ramirez will never go through arbitration.
That’s what makes his total contract more valuable than anyone else’s. The long term cost certainty the Cleveland Indians have over what should be a perennial MVP candidate is exactly what the team needs.
Ramirez is a stud and his contract is a steal. If Ramirez were to go through arbitration this year as he would’ve been scheduled to, he could’ve easily gotten eight figures. He won’t make eight figures until 2022 provided the team picks up his option, which seems likely at this point.
But if he were to earn what he deserves, I’m not sure the Indians have the payroll space to keep the team they have. They would be very limited in making any outside additions and could be forced to cut payroll elsewhere. But thankfully, that won’t be necessary because of the cost certainty the team received in the deal.
Ramirez has put up two straight seasons of at least a .300 batting average. If he can continue that, and the power sticks, the Indians will have the most team friendly contract in baseball.
The Cleveland Indians are extremely lucky to have one of the best players in baseball locked in to a contract that is worth way less than it should be.