KANSAS CITY -- The Guardians have locked in their closer for the foreseeable future.
Cleveland announced Thursday that it signed righty Emmanuel Clase to a five-year contract with club options for the 2027 and ’28 seasons. According to a source, the deal is worth $20 million.
“We were really excited that we were able to reach an agreement with Emmanuel,” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “We felt he established himself as one of the best relievers in baseball last year, and to know he’ll be a core part of our bullpen moving forward is comforting.”
The Guardians acquired Clase with outfielder Delino DeShields from Texas for 2014 and '17 American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber in December 2019. Clase, who missed the entire '20 season due to a suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, was set to hit free agency in '27. Now the team won’t have to worry about arbitration with the flamethrower, who has become the first player on the Guardians’ payroll beyond the ’22 season. Once José Ramírez’s extension becomes official, he’ll join Clase on that list.
Cleveland has only had one year with Clase, but it didn’t take the club long to love what it saw. In 71 appearances last year, he posted a 1.29 ERA with 24 saves, 74 strikeouts and 16 walks in 69 2/3 frames, as he finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year vote. His ERA was the second-lowest relief ERA in club history (minimum of 50 games and 50 innings pitched), and his appearances and saves set rookie records for the franchise.
So how can he get better?
“With his understanding of when to use his breaking ball, I think there’s going to be times he can actually be more dominant,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “Nobody knows what the season holds, but he’s got a chance to be better just with more knowledge of who he is and maybe what the league’s trying to do, things like that.”
“One of the things we talked with him over the course of last season about was just his pitch distribution and how he attacked hitters,” Antonetti said. “And I think we saw meaningful progress with that in the second half last year. So hopefully he can build on that moving forward, because his combination of stuff, location and now if he can add sequencing into it makes him a really formidable guy out there for people to try to generate hits off of.”
Now the question is where the Guardians will go from here. They’ve locked up their hard-throwing closer and Antonetti alluded to wrapping up the negotiations with Ramírez. Will anyone else be next? The first name that always comes to people’s minds is Shane Bieber. While a possibility of an extension for the 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner is not off the table, it’s not something that will happen in the near future.
“Active negotiations are concluded at this point,” Antonetti said. “So anything that’s left is tying up some loose ends is probably the best way to say it.”