Cleveland Guardians: José Ramírez is here to stay – so now what?
The Cleveland Guardians have locked up star third baseman José Ramírez for the long haul – so what’s next for the team?
This past Wednesday was a joyous day for Cleveland Guardians fans near and far. There was dancing in the street, Twitter commenters sang “Kumbaya,” cats and dogs lived in harmony. It was, and remains, beautiful. If you haven’t heard by now or are unfamiliar with what I’m referring to, José Ramírez signed the club’s first-ever $100 million contract, a five-year, $124 million extension that also guarantees his two club options this season and next, bringing it to a seven-year, $150 million deal.
However, in many ways this was the first big domino that needed to fall for the organization, as it truly paves the way for the next decade. Couple in the fact that the Guardians also have their presumed closer in place for another seven seasons and we can begin to chart out what the front office is thinking (while making some predictions, too).
Ramírez is the heartbeat of this club; there is no argument about it. He always has been, and for the next seven years, will remain so. This signing is exactly what the organization needed, as they are embroiled in a battle with a disgruntled fan base (due in large part to the name change), fan apathy from the CBA negotiations, and an overall lack of goodwill with the fans. This should begin to fix those matters from a PR standpoint. Over the past twenty years, there have been very few players whom fans have gravitated towards quite like Ramírez, the others being perhaps Victor Martinez and Jim Thome. Apologies to Francisco Lindor, but once it became obvious he wasn’t returning – well, fans turned on him (his numbers and two-year slump didn’t help, either).
Jeff Passan of MLB.com tweeted out the extension news Wednesday morning, following it up with a series of additional thoughts. The one I’ve been sharing even prior to this news is that the Guardians had no money committed to players beyond 2022. Yes, there are players who are arbitration-eligible, and the Guardians did nail down the Emmanuel Clase signing, but that will all account for maybe $20 million or so. Uncle Bryan Shaw also has a $4 million team option (pay the man!) as well. Now we can add Ramirez’s $14 million into the mix.
Oh boy, we are in the $40 million range now, but let’s see where this takes us and follow it through to a logical conclusion.
With a likely infusion of funds from a new minority owner (hello, David Blitzer), the payroll is expected to hopefully easily double from the mid-$50 million range it has been recently sitting at the past few seasons.
Guys like Franmil Reyes will need extensions. The same goes for some of the pitchers. The Guardians won’t keep them all, so for the sake of this article, I’m not even going to try and predict who and who doesn’t get extended. Then, to top it all off, look at all the prospects Cleveland has coming up in the next 24 months. Not all of them will pan out, but even if 40% of them do, those are guys you will want to keep around. Again, it’s not fair to any of the prospects to try and predict who “makes it” and who doesn’t. Just know that this club is primed for a nice window for the next 7+ seasons conceivably.
The front office clearly has a plan; it may not be on the same timetable as what fans want, but they’ve got a plan and it’s going to come to fruition on their timeline. I still believe that a trade for an outfielder is going to happen this season. However, it’s going to take time.
The Guardians will most certainly want to see what they have with some of these young guys. Does Oscar Mercado regain his 2019 form? Is Steven Kwan an everyday player? Does Josh Naylor bounce back and if so, is he an outfielder or first baseman? Is Oscar Gonzalez more than just a thumper? Where does Richie Palacios fit? George Valera seems like the real deal, but he’s just 21 years old and will start the season at Double-A Akron. Once the team start to get answers on some of these guys, along with the aforementioned middle infielders, another domino in the master plan will surely fall.
Just the other evening I borrowed a line from a certain Disney movie when discussing the upcoming season: “Into the unknown.” In many ways we still are forging ahead into the unknown, but by making this move with Ramírez, the front office has knocked down the first domino of many. He’s the bonafide face of the team, and when it’s all said and done, he could very easily hold many of the team’s franchise records for nearly all offensive categories.
Stay tuned – it’s about to get real fun.