The Indians at least broached the subjection of a contract extension with AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber this offseason, though Bieber told reporters (including The Athletic’s Zack Meisel and Cleveland.com’s Joe Noga) that “I haven’t really gotten into very many talks, at least in-depth. With Opening Day coming up right here, right in front of us, I think that’ll be what it is until maybe next offseason.”
There isn’t any immediate rush for the Tribe to lock up the ace right-hander, as Bieber won’t reach arbitration eligibility until next offseason, and he is under team control through the 2024 season. Since managing payroll is such an important part of Cleveland’s team-building strategy (particularly this winter), it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one of the sport’s best pitchers on a bargain price for at least the next couple of years, though Bieber’s price tag will rise considerably through the arbitration process if he keeps pitching as he did in the 2020 season.
The 25-year-old was a unanimous choice as the American League’s top hurler after a season that saw Bieber dominate in both the traditional statistics (a league-best 1.63 ERA, eight wins, and 122 strikeouts, to win the Triple Crown of pitching) and in the advanced metrics — a 2.52 SIERA, 44.1% strikeout rate, 34% strikeout-to-walk rate, and elite rates in most Statcast categories. While Bieber recorded this dream year over only 77 1/3 innings in 2020, he first established himself as a breakout star with a fourth-place finish in AL Cy Young voting in 2019.
The Indians have achieved great success in signing star players to long-term extensions early in their careers, though it’s possible they have already missed their window in locking up Bieber to a truly team-friendly deal. One side effect of the Tribe’s winter cost-cutting, however, is that they don’t have a single dollar officially committed to payroll beyond the 2021 season, so there is plenty of space to afford a hefty multi-year salary for Bieber.
As a fourth-round pick who signed for a modest $420K bonus, Bieber has yet to score any truly big paydays in his pro career, but it is perhaps worth mentioning that Cleveland renewed his contract for $679.7K in 2021 after the two sides didn’t reach common ground on the salary. Bieber explained that he decided on a renewal after discussing things with his representatives, saying the decision “just seemed what was best for me in my career going forward.” In terms of relations with the Indians front office, Bieber said there was “zero bad blood, animosity, whatever you want to call it,” and he is looking forward to the season.
Another interesting wrinkle lies in who will be discussing this extension on Bieber’s behalf, as the righty is one of the relatively few baseball clients of Rosenhaus Sports Representation. Run by football super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, the firm only expanded into representing baseball players in 2017, and Bieber represents the agency’s first opportunity to negotiate a major baseball contract.