Santana Signs Long Term Contract Extension
By Mike Brandyberry
“In a short time we’ve seen Carlos turn in to one of the best offensive catchers,” Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said. “He has really impressed us with his defensive improvement. We are excited to make him a cornerstone player.”
Santana signed a five-year contract valued at $21 million, eliminating his arbitration eligible years. The club option for 2017 will give the Tribe an additional year that would have made Santana a free agent after 2016. The contract has the chance to keep him in an Indians uniform until he is 31 years old. While contract begins this season and his base salary remains the same, he will earn an additional signing bonus in 2012.
“This is my second home. I’m so excited,” Santana said through his representation, Andy Mota. “I’m glad to be here for a long time.”
It is the second long-term contract the Indians have committed to in the last month. The Tribe signed Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year extension two weeks ago. Antonetti admitted that negotiations with Santana and his representatives began early in spring training and culminated with an agreement on Opening Day.
Both signings help the organization and management establish a core for the ballclub past the next two seasons.
“Contracts like this allow us to plan for the future,” Antonetti said. “They give the player financial security and the organization a plan.” He added it would also give the fans a sense of security that two players that they know and appreciate at premium positions would be in Indians uniforms.
The team has spent $36.5 million in guaranteed contracts between Cabrera’s and Santana’s deals, possibly extending Antonetti’s projected “window of opportunity” to compete in the American League Central Division.
Santana’s extension is the third long-term contract given to an MLB catcher with fewer than three years of service time. The Kansas City Royals signed Salvador Perez to a five-year deal and the Milwaukee Brewers signed Jonathan Lucroy to a four-year deal this offseason.
“Sandy is among Carlos’ largest advocates with his defensive development,” Antonetti said. “It’s a credit to his internal motivation to improve.”
“It is a testament to our scouts to identify Carlos’ ability to hit and his athleticism to catch,” Antonetti said. When the Indians acquired Santana, it was his first season as a catcher in the Dodgers organization. He previously had been a third baseman.
He debuted with the Tribe on June 11, 2010, before suffering a major knee injury six weeks later in Boston. He recovered to play his first full season in 2011, hitting .239, with 27 home runs and 79 runs batted in.
Mota made clear that Santana is passionate about continuing to improve with the Indians. “He has a lot to learn; he wants to improve his communication skills,” Mota said. “He also wants to become a leader and continue to build a relationship with everyone on the pitching staff.”
The switch-hitting catcher is off to a solid start this season, including hitting two home runs on Sunday to lead the Tribe to a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. The two home runs on Sunday, which was his 26th birthday, combined with his new contract had Santana gushing that, “this is the best birthday ever.”
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images