Shane Bieber between rock and hard place with Indians extension

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The Cleveland Indians might entertain a long-term deal with Shane Bieber, but should he be hesitant?

Over the last two seasons, Shane Bieber has become one of the best pitchers in baseball. After going 15-8 with a 3.28 ERA, a 10.9 K/9 and a 1.7 BB/9 in 2019, and finishing fourth in AL Cy Young Award voting, he went 8-1 with a major league-leading 1.63 ERA and 122 strikeouts (14.2 K/9) over 12 starts in 2020. Last season’s line on his Baseball Reference page is filled with bold ink, and he won the AL Cy Young.

The Cleveland Indians are generally loathe to spend money, coming off a pandemic-shortened season or not. Francisco Lindor priced himself out of staying in Cleveland long-term, before being traded to the New York Mets this offseason. If things go a certain way this season, others may be dealt too.

Shane Bieber is in a tough spot with possible Indians extension

Bieber will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after the 2021 season. That means, as things are currently constructed with a new CBA coming, he won’t become a free agent until after the 2024 season. If he continues to pitch like he has the last couple years, his arbitration salaries will rise nicely each time. The Indians would surely like to give themselves some cost certainty, while keeping their young ace in the fold for many years to come.

From the Indians’ end, there is no real urgency to get Bieber signed to a contract extension. He’s in their control for four more seasons, counting this one. But on the other hand, going year-to-year can be a slippery slope too–if only due to any trade vibes that might come.

If Bieber were to suffer a serious arm injury at some point in the coming years, and skeptics would say it’s a matter of when not if for most pitchers, the Indians can eliminate some risk by waiting to do a new deal.

For Bieber, even if he’s eager to talk contract extension with the Indians, there are questions. Would he really want to commit prime years of his career to a team that doesn’t want to spend? How much would be enough to effectively buy out some or all of his arbitration years, then keep him from free agency for a few years after that?

Do you choose security and stability in an uncertain broader situation for MLB? Or bet on yourself, go year-to-year through arbitration and then hit the market as possibly the top free agent starter?

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