From a utility man to a budding superstar, Jose Ramirez has experienced quite the transformation over the last two seasons.
The switch-hitting infielder was rewarded for his 2016 contributions that included a .312/.363/.462 slash line and .355 batting average with runners in scoring position on Friday evening.
With nine days remaining on the Opening Day countdown, Ramirez reportedly signed a five-year deal totaling $26-million. The extension has a maximum value of $50-million and includes team options for 2022 ($11-million) and 2023 ($13-million).
Ramirez exceeded all expectations placed upon him in 2016 after many scouts and fans profiled him as little more than a versatile defender with respectable speed on the base paths. His .219 batting average and .631 OPS from a disappointing 2015 campaign were both career-lows, putting his chances for a sustainable major league future in jeopardy.
Coming into spring training this past year, Ramirez was battling for a spot in the outfield alongside other Opening Day teammates like Tyler Naquin, Marlon Byrd and Collin Cowgill. Courtesy of Michael Brantley's lingering shoulder issues and biceps surgery, an everyday role in left field presented itself. Not only was Ramirez able to defy odds and claim the position, but he thrived and eventually found a knack at the hot corner once Juan Uribe was designated for assignment.
Aside from his clutch factor, Ramirez tallied 46 doubles, 11 home runs, 76 RBIs and 22 stolen bases, all of which were career-bests. Add in a 4.6 WAR and a ninth place vote on the American League Most Valuable Player ballot, and Ramirez emerged by taking a step into stardom as a premier infielder with a competitive flair and fiery orange hair.
If Ramirez can repeat his recent prosperity in 2017, then the Tribe may have found their first All-Star third baseman since Travis Fryman in 2000.