GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — The Cleveland Indians and versatile infielder Jose Ramirez completed a five-year, $26 million contract Tuesday, giving the AL champions another core player for a long while.
The deal includes club options for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.
The sides agreed to the pact last week and Ramirez passed his physical to finalize it. Cleveland also had talks with All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor this spring about a multiyear deal.
The 24-year-old Ramirez had a breakout season in 2016, when he helped the Indians win their first AL pennant since 1997.
“I’m really happy, I thank my family, the staff here in Cleveland and the fans, who are very important to me,” Ramirez said through a translator. “I think signing a long-term contract can take stress away from someone, but I’m going to use the same pressure and work hard.”
In his first full major league season, Ramirez batted .312 with 46 doubles, 11 home runs, 76 RBIs and 22 steals. He played four positions and hit in every spot in Cleveland’s batting order, picking up the offensive slack after left fielder Michael Brantley was limited to just 11 games following right shoulder surgery.
“Jose was signed to a small bonus and made the most of every opportunity,” general manager Chris Antonetti said. “We’ve asked a lot of him. We’ve asked him to play positions that he has never played. Jose has embraced every opportunity to contribute to the team. Even when he struggled he went to the minor leagues and came back better.”
This spring, the Indians have asked him to play more second base because star Jason Kipnis may not be ready for opening day.
The Indians are now choosing among Erik Gonzalez, Yandy Diaz and Giovanny Urshela at third base. Ramirez’s versatility is a key component in that decision.
“We asked Jose to not only play third base and left field, positions he had never played before, but asked him to bounce back and forth. That’s a lot to ask anyone,” Antonetti said.
Ramirez said that’s fine with him.
“I played second base in the minor leagues,” Ramirez said. “I don’t worry about what position I play. I believe in myself.”
Said Antonetti: “It secures the future of another key member of our team for years to come.”
Notes: The team is looking for Brantley to come back by opening day or shortly after. “Brantley met every check point. We don’t see the apprehension that we had last year,” Antonetti said. “It is just a question of building volume with him.” … LHP Kyle Crockett and RHPs Nick Goody and Carlos Frias were optioned to Triple-A Columbus. … “We informed (RHP) Shawn Armstrong that barring something unexpected, he’ll make the team,” Antonetti said.
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