CLEVELAND, Ohio — Spurred by Jose Ramirez’s desire to stay in Cleveland, a deal that seemed dead was revived by a phone call from Rafe Nieves.
Ramirez definitely wanted to stay in Cleveland. He knew that other teams were opening serious trade negotiations with the Guardians. Nieves is Ramirez’s agent, and he knew what his client wanted – to find a fair deal for both parties to stay with the Guardians.
The big decision was the two parties’ agreement to add five years to the remaining two seasons on the All-Star third baseman’s contract. The Guardians weren’t about to do one of those 10-12-year contracts given to certain stars like Francisco Lindor ($341 million for 10 years with the Mets).
Ramirez understood this.
“Jose was really determined to want to stay in Cleveland,” owner Paul Dolan said.
This inspired Dolan to push team president Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff to find a way to make the extension without ruining the payroll years later.
“Let’s give him a big raise now,” was the Guardians’ decision. With Ramirez poised to make $12 million this season, how about $22 million?
This caught the attention of Ramirez and Nieves. They agreed to a seven-year contract.
Another huge item was the comprehensive “no-trade clause,” honoring Ramirez’s desire to stay in Cleveland.
“We wanted to keep Jose here,” Antonetti said, “but do it in such a way that you can have a high-caliber team around him.”
Ramirez appreciated that. As Dolan mentioned, the team had long-term contract negotiations with other players who said they wanted to stay in Cleveland, but there was little common ground.
“From time to time we tried to keep players and put good offers on the table,” Dolan told me. “I don’t blame players for wanting full market value like they would in a big market. But you can’t do that here.
WHY IT WORKED
Ramirez was different. Both sides had a firm opening day deadline in mind and that pushed them to find common ground.
“Chris (Antonetti) and Mike (Chernoff) were in Arizona talking with Jose,” Dolan said. “I was at home. I spoke to José on the phone. I could tell he was sincere.
Dolan wanted to make a solid run to keep Ramirez, and it worked.
According to MLB sources, the new Ramirez deal breaks down as follows:
- 2022: $22 million
- 2023: $14 million
- 2024: $17 million
- 2025: $19 million
- 2026: $21 million
- 2027: $23 million
- 2028: $25 million
This represents $141 million over seven years. It ends when Ramirez is 36 and can still be a very productive player. If this is the case, he can opt for another contract.
The no-trade clause prevents him from being traded to a place he doesn’t want to go.
“We’ve never done it before, but it’s a unique situation,” Dolan said. “The deal was prompted by Jose’s desire to play in Cleveland. We wanted to honor that.
Some fans speculated that the Ramirez deal was done because the team was about to add David Blitzer as a minority owner.
I heard the opposite.
Blitzer and Dolan are still talking, but things aren’t close to a deal anytime soon. This takes lots of time.
This was the case with John Sherman when he became a minority owner in 2016. Dolan and Sherman talked for a year before Sherman bought 10%. This figure has risen to 25%.
Dolan then bought out 10% when Sherman left the franchise to buy the Kansas City Royals. The remaining 15% is in escrow.
My guess is that if a deal is made with Blitzer, it will start with the 15% originally owned by Sherman. The Dolans plan to be part of the franchise ownership for a long time.
But that day belonged to Jose Ramirez and the Cleveland Guardians.
“This is by far the biggest deal we’ve ever done,” Dolan said. “It’s a special feeling to be on opening day with our new name and a player like Jose. He deserves a lot of credit for making this possible.
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