In 2007, CC Sabathia won the Cy Young Award. He was traded a year later. In 2008, Cliff Lee won the Cy Young Award. He was also traded a year later. Back-to-back Cy Young Award winners being traded didn’t sit too well with Cleveland Indians fans. Selling away star players can make any fan base jaded and negative. Fast-forward to 2014, Corey Kluber became the fourth pitcher in Indians history to win the Cy Young Award. Indians fans waited for the sky to fall again the following year. But that never had a chance of happening. On Easter Sunday, just before the start of the season, Kluber signed a new contract that will keep him in an Indians uniform for several more seasons. In more ways than one it’s a big moment for the franchise and it’s fans.
Kluber’s new contract keeps him in a Tribe uniform until 2019 and also has club options for 2020 and 2021. According to MLB.com writer Jordan Bastian, the guaranteed portion of the contract is worth a total of $38.5 million. That’s a pretty great price for the defending AL Cy Young Award winner. According to Ken Rosenthal, this is the “largest guarantee ever” for a pre-arbitration pitcher and contains “unique escalators and trade language.” This deal works out well for Kluber too, as at the age of 29 it’s a safe deal to take and gives him security.
I’m excited to have it in place and be a Cleveland Indian for a long time,” Kluber said on Sunday. “More than anything, I wanted to be here. The young core that Chris has done a great job of locking up, and everything that [manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway] have meant to me since I’ve gotten here, that had more to do with it than anything. I wanted to be a part of this.”
It’s encouraging words to hear from an ace pitcher and he hit on the big reason why Indians fans everywhere should be excited about this season and beyond: the young core that has been locked up. Kluber wasn’t the only pitcher the Indians locked up for the long-term on Sunday, as they also extended the contract of Carlos Carrasco. According to Jeff Passan, It’s a three-year extension on top of his 2015 salary with the guarantee close to $22 million. It also has options for 2019 and 2020. Carrasco struggled for good parts of 2014, losing his starting spot in the rotation and was even designated for assignment. After a short time in the bullpen though he turned it around, posting a 2.30 ERA in 43 innings in the bullpen. This earned him a spot back in the rotation at the end of the season where he was lights out. Over 69 innings he had 1.30 ERA and struck 78 batters, while only walking 11. If Carrasco can maintain this kind of performance consistently, the Indians have themselves a pretty potent 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation for years to come.
By signing Kluber and Carrasco to long-term deals before the season, the Indians generate a lot of excitement and reinvigorate confidence in the fan base. These deals symbolize the front office’s dedication to putting a winner on the field. Of course these aren’t the only two young players that are locked up in long-term deals. They’re two parts of a very dynamic and exciting core of players on this roster. 2014 Silver Slugger catcher Yan Gomes is signed through 2019, second basemen Jason Kipnis is signed through 2019, All-Star Michael Brantley is signed through 2017 and several other players have multiple years of arbitration before free agency. It’s not unfair at all to compare this core of young players signed to long-term deals to the core of players in the 90s that were signed to long contracts. And we all know how the 90s were for the Indians.
There are no guarantees of success though and you never know what might happen to a player next. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the contract extensions of Roberto Hernandez (aka Fausto Carmona) and Travis Hafner done by the Indians in the last ten years. Those contracts were complete busts and hampered the franchise for multiple years. I point this out to temper your enthusiasm Indians fans and to remain grounded. A championship isn’t won on paper. The main point of this is General Manager Chris Antonetti and the front office of the Indians should be applauded for doing everything they can to ensure a winning product and put the best players on the field. That is all you can really ask out of a front office. The pieces are in place to succeed and if the players live up to their full potential the 2015 season could be a fun one for the team at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Photo Credit: Cleveland.com