In a year the Cleveland Indians front office expects to contend in the AL Central Division, steps are being taken to make sure contention is possible in the years to come. The Indians announced Tuesday they have signed 26 year old Catcher/DH Carlos Santana to a new 5 year extension worth $21 million dollars.
The deal locks up Santana through the 2016 season, and includes a club option for 2017. The extension comes as a surprise considering the Tribe held the rights to Santana for another 4 years. However the team was impressed with his improvement at the plate and behind it over the past two seasons.
This past Sunday Santana led the Indians to their first win of the season with a pair of homers on his birthday. On his last four birthdays, including two years in the minors, Santana is 10 for 17 with five homers and 13 RBIs.
Santana came to Cleveland from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for third baseman Casey Blake at mid-season of the 2008. Santana climbed his way through the Cleveland farm system, finally landing in The Show in May of 2010. In August that year he sustained a season-ending knee injury blocking home plate.
After a winter of rehabbing the knee, Santana returned to the Tribe in 2011 to hit 27 homers and drove in 79 while leading the club to a second place finish to Detroit.
Santana is the second player in as many weeks to sign an extension with the club. Last week the Indians announced they had shored up shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, giving the All-Star shortstop a new three-year deal. Cabrera will make $6.5 million on 2013 and $10 million on 2014.
It appears the Indians ownership, led by Larry Dolan, are taking a page from the previous regime that built the club into a winner in the 1990’s by signing players early to long term deals. It’s a system that can easily backfire, or it can pay off big if the players step up and produce.
It’s a system that makes players happy and more inclined to stay with the team that thought so much of them early when the free agent year arrives.