Extension allows Kluber and Indians to cash in on success
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Sometimes it is the deals you don’t make that end up paying the most dividends.
Last year before the home opener, the Indians signed Yan Gomes and Jason Kipnis to extensions but took a little bit of a hit from fans when they couldn’t reach an agreement with Justin Masterson, who was coming off two seasons where he made the AL All-Star team and was dominant in spring training.
When the regular season started though Masterson struggled with his control and was later traded to the Cardinals. Corey Kluber emerged as the staff ace and became the fourth Cy Young Award winner in franchise history.
While chances for an extension did not look promising earlier in the week, the Indians reached an agreement with the right-hander on a five-year extension with two club options on Saturday night.
The deal is beneficial for both sides. The Indians lock up the leader of a pitching staff that has been lauded as much for his work ethic as his dominance on the mound the past two seasons while Kluber cashes in and gets financial security after a breakout season.
Both sides could have elected to wait until after this season but at risk. What if Kluber had a down year and passed up a deal or what if the Indians had to go to arbitration with their ace after an all-star season?
Going into these negotiations the Indians had an advantage. They weren’t hamstrung by another deal setting the floor as they were last year when Homer Bailey’s extension with the Reds set the parameters with Masterson. It was also Masterson’s final year before he hit free agency while Kluber remained under team control through 2018. There also wasn’t a precedent for 28-year old pitchers who have breakthrough years en route to winning a Cy Young.
To his credit, Kluber also deflected any questions about an extension throughout spring training while with Masterson it was discussed after every spring start. Because it would benefit both equally, there was a sense that something with Kluber would eventually get done.
Kluber’s extension also adds to the core of a team that is locked up long-term through 2017 that includes Michael Brantley, Kipnis and Gomes. Only one member of the starting rotation was arbitration eligible this season in Carlos Carrasco and closer Cody Allen doesn’t qualify for arbitration until next season. The only notable free agents coming up are David Murphy after this season and Brandon Moss after next year.
There are reports that the Indians are also talking about an extension with Carrasco. Even though he had a great run at the end of the season, some might wonder if that would be something better to pursue after the season and a larger sample size as a starter.
The Kluber deal also wins points with a portion of the fan base that remains jaded after the C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee trades. The Indians were unable to reach extensions with them after they won their Cy Young awards and were traded in the final season of their deals. While Kluber’s situation was different because of his lack of service time, the stigma from the previous two cases existed.
Maybe now it can finally be put to rest.