Guardians ink Giménez, Stephan to extensions
SEATTLE -- Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said he was confident at least one contract extension would get done before the start of the season. As it turns out, he was right.
On Thursday, the team announced the following extensions:
• Second baseman Andrés Giménez agreed to a seven-year contract that includes a club option for the 2030 season. According to a source, the deal is worth $106.5 million, with a $23 million club option for the eighth year (escalators could make it $24 million).
• Righty reliever Trevor Stephan agreed to a four-year contract that includes club options in 2027 and '28. According to a source, the deal is worth $10 million, with a $7.25 million option in the fifth year that could reach as much as $8.25 million and a $7.5 million option in the sixth that could escalate to $8.5 million.
"Hopefully, they're foundational pieces to allow us to be successful championship-caliber teams," Antonetti said, "because we believe they're both elite players and that’s a great starting point for building good teams moving forward."
“All the help and the resources [the organization] has provided me are some of the big reasons that helped me make the decision,” Giménez said through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “But also, the pride that we have here, what we’re building here as a group, the talented guys that we have, the chemistry that we have. It was an easy choice to make a long-term decision.”
The Guardians have blown what was their largest contract in franchise history out of the water the last two years. A title that was once held by Edwin Encarnacion's three-year, $60 million deal was taken by José Ramírez last season, when he agreed to a seven-year, $124 extension. Now, Giménez owns the second-largest contract in club history.
At the end of the 2020 season, it was clear that Cleveland was on the verge of parting ways with shortstop Francisco Lindor. There was uncertainty about how the team would move forward, not only by filling his spot on the field, but losing what was the face of its franchise. Lindor was traded in January 2021, and a middle-infield duo of Amed Rosario and Giménez were the big pieces coming back to Cleveland.
It didn’t take long for Giménez to become a fan favorite.
He gave everyone a taste of what he could bring to the table with a red-hot Spring Training, but he struggled once the regular season got underway. Giménez then split the ’21 season between Triple-A and the Majors, adjusting to his new environment. But when he came back in ’22, he was everything and more the Guardians could’ve asked for.
“Most importantly, the support they’ve given me, not only when I’m doing well, but especially the times that I wasn’t doing that well as a player,” Giménez said, when asked what made him interested in a long-term deal with Cleveland.
Giménez hit .297 last year with an .837 OPS, 26 doubles, three triples, 17 homers, 69 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 146 contests. He was as reliable as anyone in the Majors in clutch situations, hitting .387 with a 1.205 OPS in 73 plate appearances with two outs and runners in scoring position. In tie games, he hit .339 with a .998 OPS.
He was selected to his first All-Star Game and received a Gold Glove Award for his near-flawless defense at second base. That defense will only become more important this season, as second basemen will have more ground to cover with shift limitations going into place. He was awarded a sixth-place finish in the AL MVP vote last year, while gaining some national attention.
The Guardians have had talks with shortstop Rosario about a possible extension this spring, but if that isn’t something that comes to fruition, Cleveland has certainly locked up an elite middle infielder who can handle either second base or shortstop for the foreseeable future.
“Security is always good to have, but most important to me was what we have here as a team,” Giménez said. “We got that taste last year [of] what it was like to compete for something. The motivation is to keep pushing forward.”
And while Cleveland is planning its future in the infield, the club made strides to keep a reliable arm in the ‘pen. Stephan, who was a Rule 5 Draft pick in 2020, emerged as a trusted late-inning reliever over the past two years, especially impressing in ‘22 by posting a 2.69 ERA with 82 strikeouts and 18 walks in 63 2/3 innings. Stephan joins closer Emmanuel Clase (signed through 2026 after last year’s five-year, $20 million extension) as the two bullpen arms guaranteed to stay in Cleveland for multiple seasons.