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Guardians, José Ramírez Agree To Extension

Jose Ramirez

Jose Ramirez

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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After an offseason filled with seemingly endless trade chatter, the Guardians and José Ramírez agreed to a massive five-year, $124 million contract extension Wednesday. It’s the largest contract in franchise history by a considerable margin and will keep the superstar infielder in Cleveland through the 2028 season. The 29-year-old third baseman, who will receive a full no-trade clause in the long-term deal, has been one of the most valuable players in baseball – and a certifiable first-round caliber, five-category fantasy superstar – since putting together a breakthrough campaign back in 2016. Ramírez has registered an astronomical .912 OPS across 2,775 plate appearances since the start of the 2017 season, while also averaging 110 runs scored, 36 home runs, 105 RBI and 28 stolen bases per-162 games played during that span.

The Guardians have justifiably taken plenty of heat for their cost-cutting efforts during their recent rebuilding phase, as evidenced by the fact they had committed zero dollars to players beyond the current 2022 campaign. However, with Ramírez and burgeoning star closer Emmanuel Clase signed to long-term extensions, they’ve put in place a pair of essential core building blocks to build their roster around for years to come. With Shane Bieber at the front of their starting rotation for at least the next three seasons, and intriguing young arms like Triston McKenzie, Cal Quantrill, Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale also in the fold, the Guardians have enough pitching depth to reasonably contend. Meanwhile, their lineup contains a mix of solid everyday big leaguers like Franmil Reyes, Amed Rosario and Myles Straw, and up-and-coming prospects like Andrés Giménez and Steven Kwan. It’s easy to be optimistic in early April, but after signing Ramirez to a well-deserved extension, Cleveland appears to have an actual long-term plan moving forward.

Opening Day Preview

It’s time. On the heels of a prolonged offseason, which featured a nearly 100-day ownership-imposed lockout amidst contentious Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations before giving way to an avalanche of last-minute player movement, Opening Day has finally arrived. Fantasy managers have already been granted a friendly reminder of the perils associated with scheduling early April baseball games in the Northeast and Midwest with a pair of Thursday’s season-opening matchups – Red Sox vs. Yankees and Mariners vs. Twins – postponed due to inclement weather. Here’s a quick primer for fantasy managers highlighting the most intriguing storylines from each of the seven remaining Opening Day matchups left on Thursday’s jam-packed schedule.

Brewers (Corbin Burnes) vs. Cubs (Kyle Hendricks) - 2:20 pm

The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner will square off against a new-look Cubs’ lineup that features Japanese superstar outfielder Seiya Suzuki making his highly-anticipated big-league debut. The 27-year-old got off to a frosty start in the Cactus League this spring, but is one of the most accomplished international players to arrive in the majors in years. Suzuki was a bona fide force in his final season with the Hiroshima Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball last year, posting an astronomical .317/.433/.639 triple-slash line with a career-high 38 home runs across 533 plate appearances. He projects as an immediate four-category impact fantasy contributor right away.

Guardians (Shane Bieber) vs. Royals (Zack Greinke) - 4:10 pm

Greinke’s homecoming will take a backseat to the major-league debut of burgeoning superstar Bobby Witt Jr. in this one. Almost universally-regarded as the top prospect in baseball, the 21-year-old will serve as the Royals’ everyday third baseman this season after forcing his way onto the team’s Opening Day roster, hitting .406/.441/.781 with three homers and two steals in 12 Cactus League contests. He projects as an immediate five-category impact fantasy contributor and his meteoric rise starts right now.

Pirates (JT Brubaker) vs. Cardinals (Adam Wainwright) - 4:15 pm

The Cardinals throwback nostalgia tour kicks off with Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols facing the division-rival Pirates on Thursday afternoon. At 42 years old, Pujols will be making his 22nd consecutive Opening Day start and will serve as the first-ever designated hitter for the home squad at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. The Pirates are bereft of virtually any buzz following their decision to jettison Oneil Cruz to Triple-A Indianapolis, but Diego Castillo made some serious noise in the Grapefruit League this spring, hitting .371/.395/.886 with six round-trippers in 14 games to force his way onto Pittsburgh’s season-opening roster. He’s worthy of a speculative roster spot for fantasy managers in deeper mixed leagues.

Mets (Tylor Megill) vs. Nationals (Patrick Corbin) - 7:05 pm

There’s still a chance this contest, which has already been pushed back three hours due to the possibility of inclement weather, could wind up being postponed. That would set up Max Scherzer to make his Mets debut Friday on Opening Day against his former team, but for the moment it’ll be Tylor Megill taking the ball from new manager Buck Showalter for New York in this one. The 26-year-old righty was exceptional in his big-league debut last year, and represents an intriguing streaming option for fantasy managers right out of the gate. He’s poised for a strong outing, but only if he can safely navigate the Nationals’ brand-new Juan Soto and Nelson Cruz combination at the heart of their lineup.

Reds (Tyler Mahle) vs. Braves (Max Fried) - 8:08 pm

The Braves, who boldly replaced franchise icon Freddie Freeman with Matt Olson last month and will also be without franchise cornerstone Ronald Acuña Jr. until early May, begin their title defense with a showdown against a bizarre-looking Reds’ squad, which contains a mixture of proven veteran contributors and relative unknowns. Fantasy managers won’t see top pitching prospects Hunter Greene or Nick Lodolo on Thursday evening, but Mahle has morphed into one of the most durable starting pitchers in baseball. The 27-year-old righty compiled a solid 3.75 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 210/64 K/BB ratio across 180 innings (33 starts) last year. Meanwhile, Fried blossomed into one of the best pitchers in baseball last year, recording a microscopic 2.44 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 144/36 K/BB ratio across 154 2/3 innings over his final 25 regular-season starts.

Astros (Framber Valdez) vs. Angels (Shohei Ohtani) - 9:38 pm

The Opening Day slate features a veritable cornucopia of elite pitching matchups, but none stack up quite like this one. Ohtani evolved into the most dynamic force of nature in the sport last year, launching 46 round-trippers in 639 plate appearances, while also posting a sparkling 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and n156/44 K/BB ratio across 130 1/3 innings (23 starts). The 27-year-old two-way sensation is the most exciting player in baseball and a must-watch for fantasy managers on Thursday evening in his regular season debut. Valdez, who gets the nod for the Astros over Justin Verlander in this one, is one of the most underrated starting pitchers in the game after registering a sparkling 3.14 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 125/58 K/BB ratio across 134 2/3 (22 starts) last year.

Padres (Yu Darvish) vs. Diamondbacks (Madison Bumgarner) - 9:40 pm

The duel in the desert featuring Darvish and Bumgarner should cap off an intriguing Opening Night slate. Perhaps the most interesting storylines for fantasy managers to monitor involve the respective closer situations for both sides. Mark Melancon appears to be locked in as Arizona’s stopper, but San Diego’s bullpen remains a complete mystery. Robert Suarez, a hard-throwing 31-year-old righty who notched 42 saves to go along with a minuscule 1.16 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 58/8 K/BB ratio over 62 1/3 innings last year with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan, is the dark horse candidate to emerge as the Padres’ primary closer.

American League Quick Hits: Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Twins are “working” to acquire Chris Paddack from the Padres. … Héctor Gómez of Z101 Digital reported Wednesday that Rafael Devers turned down a long-term contract extension offer from the Red Sox. … Royals signed INF/OF Whit Merrifield to a two-year, $10.25 million restructured contract with an $18 million mutual option for the 2024 season. … Steven Kwan will start in right field on Thursday in the Guardians’ season-opener against the Royals. … Jorge Mateo (hand) took batting practice without issue Wednesday … Mariners signed RHP Jairo Díaz to a minor league contract. … AJ Ramos announced his retirement from professional baseball.

National League Quick Hits: Ken Rosenthal and Dan Hayes of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Padres are targeting Taylor Rogers in a potential trade with the Twins. … Padres optioned LHP MacKenzie Gore and C Luis Campusano to Triple-A El Paso. … Brewers acquired C Victor Caratini and cash considerations from the Padres for C Brett Sullivan and OF Korry Howell. … Mets signed RHP John Curtiss to a one-year, $770,000 contract with a team option for the 2023 season; placed him on the 60-day injured list. … Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday that Stephen Strasburg (neck, shoulder) might be ready to return around May 1. … X-rays came back negative on Mickey Moniak‘s right hand after he was hit by a pitch in Wednesday’s Grapefruit League finale against the Rays. … Pirates signed OF Jake Marisnick to a minor league contract. … Brewers acquired C Alex Jackson from the Marlins for INF Hayden Cantrelle and RHP Alexis Ramirez. … Marlins released OF Roman Quinn.