Cleveland Indians: Is Jose Ramirez the best deal in baseball?
In 2017, the Cleveland Indians signed their budding star third baseman Jose Ramírez to a five-year deal worth $26 million with club options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons at $11 million and $13 million, respectively.
This weekend against the New York Yankees, Ramirez had a phenomenal series. He was 6-for-10 with four walks, two home runs, one of which hit the top of the second deck in left field, and he had four RBI and a stolen base for good measure. He was the best player on the field the entire series.
The Yankees knew that he was the only one that could really hurt them and they still couldn’t stop him. Ramírez is also doing this without much help from his teammates as Franmil Reyes is the only legitimate threat in the lineup besides Ramirez. Reyes does at least provide some behind him, hitting cleanup with 30 home runs.
Ramirez is the best player per dollar in major league baseball. Since signing his current contract he has finished in the top 10 of WAR in three of the five seasons. He was top three in the MVP three times, he’s made three All-Star games and won three Silver Sluggers. He has put up incredible numbers across the board and has speed, not to mention he’s also a great defender.
This year, Ramirez has tallied 35 home runs, 94 RBI, 24 stolen bases, an OBP of .357, an OPS over .900 and an OPS+ of 144 which is 44 points above average. He also has a WAR over six and once again he will finish in the top 10. He has a fielding percentage over .950 and has nine defensive runs saved.
With 13 games left, this season is one of his best yet. Across MLB he ranks ninth in home runs, 14th in RBI, ninth in WAR, eighth in stolen bases and 12th in OPS. He is flying under the radar because Cleveland is out of the playoff picture. Without Ramirez, this team would be fighting for the last place in the American League Central. Since 2017 he has hit 143 home runs, which is around 30 per year. Over the same span he’s been able to register 411 RBI, 109 stolen bases, an OPS of .915, and an OPS+ of 140. His WAR during this time is over 27. There’s no understating how great he has been since that contract was signed.
His contract is an incredible bargain at just an average of $5 million per year and Cleveland is getting one of the best players in baseball for it. One contract it compares to is the Kanas City Royals Whit Merrifield who inked a deal for four years and $16 million dollars.
While Merrifield is a great player, he still doesn’t produce nearly as much as Ramirez. Merrifield’s WAR is 15 and he has more hits and stolen bases than Ramírez, but his power doesn’t compare. He only has 66 home runs, his OPS is under .800 and his OPS+ is 108. He also doesn’t have any top-three MVP finishes or Silver Slugger Awards. Not to mention that he is three years older than Ramírez and the only reason the contracts are really comparable is due to the cheap salaries.
At age 29 and two club options left, he will be primed for a big payday soon. The question is will Cleveland keep him? It’s been status quo for them to trade their stars before a big payday such as Francisco Lindor, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger. This could be a different situation because both sides have the motivation to keep this marriage together. Ramirez has said he wants to stay in Cleveland and they need someone to build this offense around. Only time will tell if it actually happens.