Indians finalize six-year extension with Gomes
Catcher, 26, became crucial part of Cleveland's 2013 posteason run
OAKLAND -- It has been a running joke between Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles since the Indians acquired the pair from the Blue Jays prior to last season. Both players joke that they were the main piece in the trade and the other guy was simply tossed in.
On Monday afternoon, Gomes was flanked by reporters after the Indians announced a six-year extension that includes club options that could keep the catcher in a Tribe uniform through 2021. With his contract in hand, Gomes had some news for Aviles.
"We can tell Aviles that he was the other guy now," Gomes said with a laugh.
Gomes' contract will pay him a guaranteed $23 million through 2019 and includes a $1 million buyout or club options worth $9 million for '20 and $11 million for '21. The pact is the largest in baseball history for a catcher in his pre-arbitration years.
This marks Gomes' first Opening Day in the big leagues, and he will serve as Cleveland's starting catcher after supplanting Carlos Santana behind the plate in the second half of last season. Gomes has only been a starting catcher for three months, but the Indians have made it unquestionably clear that they feel he is a cornerstone player.
"He showed us that he's worth this contract," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's how much faith we have in him. That's pretty amazing for a young kid with that kind of track record, or lack of track record, for us to buy in that much. That's a pretty big compliment to him."
Gomes' contract includes a $500,000 signing bonus and annual salaries of $550,000 (2014), $1 million (2015), $2.5 million (2016), $4.5 million (2017), $5.95 million (2018) and $7 million (2019). It is similar to the five-year, $21-million deal Santana signed with Cleveland in April 2012, and it is the second deal this spring for a player already under club control.
Early in Spring Training, the Indians also signed outfielder Michael Brantley -- who was in his first year of arbitration eligibility -- to a five-year contract worth $25 million.
"We're getting all the right pieces in place," Brantley said. "The front office is doing a great job of that. It's exciting. It's exciting to be a player and it's exciting to be a Cleveland Indians fan."
The Indians also explored an extension with All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis during Spring Training, but the sides set Opening Day as an unofficial deadline for negotiations. In the hours before Monday's game, Kipnis said there was no deal at the moment, but he would not go as far as saying the talks had ended.
"I've stayed out of it mostly, so I really don't, honestly, have too many answers for you guys," Kipnis said. "I try to let the agents and [general manager Chris Antonetti] do most of the talking. We haven't come to a deal yet, but it's Opening Day for me. I'm excited and my whole concentration is on the game."
Kipnis said he was thrilled for Gomes.
"I love it. I'm proud of him. I'm happy for him. He's a good teammate," Kipnis said. "I think it's legitimately a very easy win-win for both sides. You've got someone who's looking to be here for a while, someone who's working hard and has the security of six years. And Cleveland probably got a pretty darned good catcher for six years at a good price. I think both of them won on this."
Gomes would not argue.
"This is a huge blessing, getting a contract like that," Gomes said. "But now we're talking about taking this team to another level."
Cleveland reeled in Gomes and Aviles from the Blue Jays as part of the Nov. 3, 2012, trade for pitcher Esmil Rogers. Gomes opened last season with Triple-A Columbus, but he quickly ascended to Cleveland and earned the starting role behind the plate during the Tribe's second-half push to the postseason.
In 88 games last season, the 26-year-old Gomes -- the first Brazilian-born player to reach the big leagues -- hit .294 with 11 home runs, 18 doubles and 38 RBIs. Among Major League catchers with at least 275 plate appearances, Gomes ranked third in OPS (.837), trailing only Joe Mauer and Jason Castro.
Gomes excelled defensively for Cleveland, too.
Among AL catchers with at least 700 innings behind the plate, Gomes ranked first with a 40.8 (20-for-49) caught-stealing percentage, according to Baseball Reference. Cleveland's pitching staff posted a 3.56 ERA in the 710 innings he caught, and he ended the season with just three errors and a .996 fielding percentage.
"We're very excited to have Yan aboard for the long term," Indians assistant general manager Mike Chernoff said. "Yan emerged last year as a true leader for the team both offensively and defensively. As he created the opportunity for himself to get into the everyday catching role, he really took advantage of it and became one of the best catchers in baseball."
Gomes might want to share that last comment with Aviles.
"Actually, [the team] signed him to an extension first," Gomes said. "I'm still the other guy."