Imagine guaranteeing someone $150,000,000 in salary and feeling like you got the better end of the deal. Well, that’s how the management of the Cleveland Guardians should feel today after reaching an extension agreement with star third basemen Jose Ramirez.
The 29-year-old Ramirez was already essentially under contract through 2023 because of team options from an extension signed before the 2017 season. His new deal adds five more years and a no-trade clause, keeping him in Cleveland through 2028, his age-35 season.
Cleveland Guardians have bargain with Jose Ramirez
Over the last six seasons, Ramirez has been one of the most valuable players in all of baseball. Over that span, he’s hit an impressive .286/.364/.531/.895 and averaged 31 home runs, 27 stolen bases, 45 doubles, 107 runs, and 101 RBI per 162 games. Only four position players have produced at least 30 bWAR in the last six seasons, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Nolan Arenado, and Jose Ramirez.
The new money for the three-time All-Star is reportedly $124 million over five seasons (2024-2028). While that money is the largest contract in franchise history, it pales in comparison to contracts signed by top third basemen in recent history. In 2019, Manny Machado signed a 10-year/$300 million contract with the Padres, and Nolan Arenado signed an 8-year/$260 million extension with Colorado. In 2020, Anthony Rendon and the Angels agreed to a 7-year/$245 million contract.
For the sake of comparison, none of these are apples-to-apples. Machado was three years younger and a free agent and, of the three, is the least similar. Rendon and Arenado are more similar. Both were signed within a year of Ramirez’s current age but Rendon was a free agent and Arenado had just one year left of team control (rather than two like Ramirez).
In the six seasons before his extension, Arenado compiled 31.4 bWAR, 0.1 less than Ramirez in a similar span. Arenado had more defensive value and some big offensive numbers but due to park adjustments, was actually a less valuable hitter than Ramirez. Looking at Arenado’s contract for only his age-31 through 35 seasons, he’s guaranteed $164 million, $40 million more than Ramirez is guaranteed.
Rendon became a free agent following his age-29 season and was only a few months older than Ramirez is today when he signed his extension. Rendon fell just shy of 30 bWAR in the six seasons before his free agency but was coming off a stellar three-year stretch which culminated in a career-best 7.1 bWAR season in 2019. For ages 31-35, Rendon’s contract guaranteed him roughly $180 million, nearly 50% more than Ramirez.
Perhaps the closest comparison to Ramirez’s new contract is one signed by Jose Altuve before the 2018 season. Similarly, Altuve had two option years that became guaranteed and five years tacked on. Altuve was a year younger when he signed his deal and had been named the American League Most Valuable Player the previous season. Overall, he was a little less productive than Ramirez at that point in their careers based on bWAR but Altuve had produced back-to-back MVP-caliber seasons. The second baseman was given a $21 million signing bonus plus $140 million in new money for the final five years. If you prorate that bonus over each year, that comes down to $155 million over the five-year extension or about $6 million more per season than Ramirez.
In every comparison, Ramirez has lower future earnings than the other player but is arguably the more productive player. Free-agent contracts and extensions for players already under team control are different. For one, there are 29 fewer potential suitors for extensions. Ramirez gets the security of a huge guaranteed sum two years before he would be able to negotiate on the open market. The Cleveland Guardians get one of the league’s best players for the next seven seasons at a below-market rate.
At the end of the day, both are probably very happy to come to the agreement and have Ramirez serve as the face of the franchise for the next seven years.