The Indians have made extension offers to ace Shane Bieber during each of the past two Spring Trainings, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). Terms of the respective offers are unknown. Bieber, a client of Rosenhaus Sports Representation, is under team control via arbitration through 2024.
It’s wholly unsurprising Cleveland would like to keep Bieber long-term. The 25-year-old has cemented himself as one of the sport’s top pitchers in recent seasons. After impressing with 214 1/3 innings of 3.28 ERA/3.36 SIERA ball in 2019, Bieber has taken his game to another level over the last two years. He was a unanimous selection as the AL Cy Young award winner in 2020 after dominating hitters to the tune of a 1.63 ERA with an MLB-best 122 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings.
Bieber hasn’t continued to pitch at that superhuman level this year, but he’s still been one of the game’s best arms. Over his first eight starts, the right-hander has worked to a 2.95 ERA, and he again leads MLB in strikeouts (85). Bieber has thrown a league-leading 132 1/3 frames over the past two seasons. In that time, he also ranks among the league’s top three pitchers (minimum 50 combined innings) in strikeout rate (39.3%), strikeout minus walk rate (31.9 percentage points), SIERA (2.58) and swinging strike rate (17.4%).
Given that continued level of dominance, it stands to reason the Cleveland front office will reengage with Bieber’s camp next winter. In March, Bieber expressed openness to a potential long-term deal but suggested he wasn’t much interested in discussing an extension during the regular season. He’s presently slated for his first of three trips through arbitration next offseason.
There haven’t been many extensions for starting pitchers with three-plus years of service time (which Bieber is set to reach before next offseason) in recent years. Phillies ace Aaron Nola and Cardinals righty Carlos Martínez are the only starters in that service class to sign long-term extensions over the past half-decade. Nola’s 2019 deal guaranteed the righty $45MM over four seasons with a fifth-year club option. Martínez signed a loftier five-year, $51MM guarantee but surrendered an extra potential free agent season via a second club option. Bieber has been more dominant during the past two seasons than either Nola or Martínez were at the time of their respective deals. If he finishes this season just as strong, he could justifiably set an asking price a fair bit loftier than those figures.
The Indians, of course, have taken plenty of criticism for their lack of spending. Cleveland’s $49.6MM payroll this season is the league’s second-lowest, in the estimation of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. However, the Indians have rather aggressively pursued early-career extensions for some of their star players in recent years. They also don’t have a single guaranteed contract on the books for 2022 and beyond, giving them plenty of long-term flexibility.