OAKLAND – Yan Gomes’ first Opening Day on a Major League roster was already going to be a special day, but what happened on Monday might have a hard time being matched by many.
Gomes’ six-year extension worth $23 million was made official before the game against Oakland. The sides agreed to terms over the weekend when the Indians were in San Diego for a two-game series to conclude spring training.
"Yan emerged as a true leader of the team both offensively and defensively last season," said assistant general manager Mike Chernoff in announcing the extension. "He created an opportunity for himself to get into every day catching role and he took advantage of it. Situations like this and a deal of this magnitude it is more about the person than the player."
Last year at this time no one knew what the Indians were getting in their Nov. 2012 trade with Toronto when they acquired Gomes and Mike Aviles for Esmil Rogers. With Aviles as one of the more versatile players on the roster and Gomes taking over as the every day catcher, the Indians definitely got the better end of that deal.
Gomes started last season with Triple-A Columbus but appeared in just six games with the Clippers. He was called up for good on April 28 and established himself as the every day catcher the second half of last season. He finished the season batting .294 with 18 doubles, 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 88 games with 79 starts at catcher. During the Tribe’s September run, he started 22 of the 27 games.
For as much as he did offensively, Gomes was better defensively. He threw out 18 of 47 runners who attempted to steal off him. The 38.3 percentage would have led the American League if he had more appearances.
It’s not uncommon for the Indians to get long-term deals with catchers early in their careers, but this one breaks new ground. While Victor Martinez and Carlos Santana had five-year deals with one option, this one is a one-year longer and has an extra option (the club holds options in 2020 and ’21).
While the extension means the Tribe won’t have to deal with Gomes in arbitration and takes out a couple years of free agency for Gomes, it is a win-win for both sides. As Chernoff said, the Indians have done plenty of these deals the past 10 years and they have ended up paying off. The deal also means that the core of the Indians roster is under team control through 2016.
"It is extremely humbling that they want to keep me here for a long time," Gomes said. "I’m signing for a big amount of my career but from top to bottom this is where I want to be."
When players get big deals, there is a concern that it might change a player. Based on the fact of how long Gomes has had to work for his chance, no one thinks that this will lessen his drive. As Terry Francona said about Gomes, he knows where came from and the extension is just the beginning because it should ease a lot of anxiety for Gomes and his family.
Added Francona: "I had a chance to have a front-row seat and it was cool because these types of things (years and dollars) donât happen. We got a guy that we like tied up for a long time. It takes effort to get something like that done."
One person who had an eager interest in the Gomes extension was second baseman Jason Kipnis, who has been trying to get his own done as spring training started to wind down. When asked if there was any progress in his talks, Kipnis said that things were neither good nor bad.
It sounds like both sides remain in discussions especially after Chernoff said that general manager Chris Antonetti would address inquiries about Kipnis after the team returns from Oakland. In other words, could Friday’s home opener bring news of a Kipnis extension?
"Yan is a good teammate and I think it’s legitimately a win-win for both sides," Kipnis said. "He’s someone who is working hard and has the security of six years. We got a darn good catcher for the next six years as a good price."