3. Shane Bieber
If Shane Bieber builds off his 2019 campaign, he’ll be one of the best bargains in baseball, as the All-Star Game MVP is making around $569,000.
Now, the same sense of urgency that should be there with Clevinger doesn’t exist with Bieber yet, as the right-hander can’t hit the open market until after the 2024 season.
Back in the early 1990s, the Indians became one of the first organizations to be begin locking up talent by offering extensions that bought out the first couple years of free agency. General manager John Hard knew Cleveland wasn’t a free-agent destination, and this was a way to hold onto talent for a little longer.
Pro sports is a copycat league, and soon the rest of the baseball began to employ the tactics used by the Tribe. Sure, there’d be misses, but if you could hit on a few extension, you could be do something special, like the Trie did in the mid-to-late 1990s.
Unfortunately, the talent seems more willing to bet on themselves, which makes it harder for clubs to get these types of deals done. Look no further than Francisco Lindor. The superstar made pennies (by baseball standards) in his first couple of season, but now he’s making $17.5 on the one-year deal he signed to avoid arbitration.
The Indians tried to sign Lindor to a $100 million extension before he started making an eight-figure salary, but Lindor rejected the deal. With an endorsement deal from New Balance in his back pocket, he could afford to let it ride.
We saw the White Sox get ahead of this type of scenario by signing prized prospect Luis Robert to an extension this winter. He’s never played a big-league game, but Chicago is betting he’ll hit it big, and if he does, the money they have him now will have been well spent.
Bieber’s star isn’t as bright as Lindor’s was following the 2016 and 2017 season, but his career keeps trending upward. Hopefully, the Tribe locks him up before it’s too late.